AngryFrenchGuy

Camille Laurin’s Bitches

with 54 comments

Who\'s your daddy?

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!

Written by angryfrenchguy

April 19, 2008 at 9:40 pm

54 Responses

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  1. I was born after the adoption of 101, so the only Montreal I have ever known is the present, de facto bilingual one. The bulk of your post seems to be about the impact that 101 has had on creating the present (again bilingual, for the most part) situation. But your initial question intesrets me.

    “Who says Montreal should be French, anyway?”

    I think that’s a fair question. A second question I would ask is, how those who feel that Montreal should be as french as it can be feel about the linguistic situation of Quebec as a whole.

    A popular maxim I’ve heard is “Au Québec, ça se passe en français”. Fine, that’s the reality of the situation, but why do the same people often take a more idealistic view when it comes to Montreal? In Montreal, ça se passe en anglais ou en français, depending on where you are. For many, this is unacceptable and should be changed, which is fine, but why the inconsistency?

    Rorybellows

    April 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm

  2. Yes! Finally, someone speaks the truth.

    Without the French cachet this town would lose what little clout it has on the world stage and be lost in the wilderness of third tier generic cities nobody trhinks about.

    Besides, making Montreal officially French is exactly what makes this a bilingual city… officializing it as bilingual would turn it back to an anglo town.

    Alain B.

    April 19, 2008 at 10:19 pm

  3. “Besides, making Montreal officially French is exactly what makes this a bilingual city… officializing it as bilingual would turn it back to an anglo town.”

    I can accept that. Can we acknowledge that the reason for the strength of English is the power of attraction of the language itself? The english language, not those who speak it, is what makes it necessary to “over”compensate for french as far as legislation goes. The language may be a threat to the french character of Montreal, but the english speakers are a historic part of the city. It’s a distinction that many fail, or refuse to make.

    Rorybellows

    April 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm

  4. We’re on the same wavelength Rory, if only you knew how many different ways I’ve tried to imprint that distinction on my “more militant” compatriots.

    The trouble is, I find, that the beef many of them have with language is often in fact rooted in some very personal negative experience with a few people that lead them to project their animus on a whole community…

    Alain B.

    April 19, 2008 at 11:37 pm

  5. That’s the most compelling argument that I’ve heard for Bill 101. Thanks for that. I was born just as Bill 101 came in to effect. I’m an allophone who works in Toronto frequently. My trilingualism has been immensely well received, so thanks, I guess.

    When are you going to weigh in on L’Office de la langue française?

    Carmen

    April 20, 2008 at 9:05 am

  6. Allo AFG…another great topic. Why do we continually use falsehoods and misrepresentation to make our points. Is not the truth, strong enough to shine a light on the situation so that everyone can have an understanding of what has gone on before and what we have done to try to change or maybe attempt to improve the important factors in our daily life ?
    AFG, I do not believe that there is any doubt among the practicianors of the common language that la belle province has declined in wealth, expertise and human resources since the very vibrant element in our local nation has been trying to exert their will as the majority. Really a novel idea, the majority organizing themselves to stop prejudice and irrelevancy from the minority. How democratic!

    Since the mid sixties, our society has been hijacked by individuals who seem more bent on punishing elements of our society who are not like us but had the stupidity in living their lives concerned only on making a buck to support the families and to enjoy their lives. True they are guilty for not taking the time to get to know us or learn the common language (outside of our glorious education system that refused to teach and deliver bilingual citizens…small note to TRUE facts..our local national government has always been and still is vehemently opposed to making either group bilingual and it is only by the sneaky cunning persuavance oif the minority group that their “English Schools” are really bilingual centers of instructions producing truly bilingual potential citizens for the other places in Canada who seem to be able to offer them a less complicated, frustrating or confrontational life. Unlike our wonderful French unilingual public school who have to be commended that they have vigilantly made sure that not one of our common language users have ever learnt the other language there…Long may it reign continue…ensuring that all their graduate stay employed locally.

    I do get to travel alot around Canada and I am always shocked that other Canadians are really not paying any attention to what is happening in our local nation. It is they are not interested, concerned or care.

    angryQuebecperson

    April 20, 2008 at 10:56 am

  7. AngryQuebecPerson:

    If you are so concerned with truth, read up on Montreal’s economic decline. Well underway when language issues came to the forefront. The link to Marc Levine’s book is in my post. It’s a good place to start.

    Some economists even make a compelling argument that the Quiet Revolution was CAUSED by the vaccum left after the start of the economic decline and the begginning of the Anglos exodus. Real economists. English-speaking ones.

    I do think French schools should do a better job of teaching English.

    Wanna help? Oh, right, your too busy wasting your energy on keeping the myth of the glorious billingual Montreal of yore where natives, immigrants and anglos danced hand in hand on streets paved with gold on their way to perfect athenian democratic forums held on the slopes of Mount-Royal alive…

    angryfrenchguy

    April 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

  8. Many things here to comment here.

    1. Preserving french is mostly about culture and identity. not economy.

    2. English is not a minority language in montreal. English coexisit with french. English dominate certain sectors, french others.

    3. As such it is hard for me to see anglophones in Montreal as a language minority. Certaintly anglophones living in Gaspé are a minority, but not in montreal. See josee legault’s book (l’invention d’une minorité. http://tinyurl.com/3rfjam)

    quebecois separatiste

    April 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm

  9. And by the way angryQuebecperson, it’s really easy to call me a liar and say I hide the truth but how about you prove me wrong?

    Common, it’s not that hard! Just find the information that proves me wrong, post the link in the little box that I provide for you and every one can see that I am wrong and I look like an ass.

    Hey, even I can find writers that blame Montreal’s decline on the Anglo exodus and the said exodus on those mean mean separatists.

    But if you are truly interested in truth you can also read books written by scholars who are not from Canada and therefore have a more unemotional take on these affairs:

    The Reconquest on Montreal, Marc Levine, University of Wisconsin

    Feeling Comfortable, the urban experience of Anglo Montrealers, Martha Radice, Université Laval

    Both books have a very thorough review of the evidence on the so-called exodus. Turns out a lot of Anglos did leave Montreal. The reasons for this are not so clear. For example, the trend started way before the political instability of the 60’s and 70’s

    angryfrenchguy

    April 20, 2008 at 2:19 pm

  10. He AFG,

    Angry French Guy…are you from France….maybe you should change your handle to Angry Quebecois Guy which would be more fitting. I am thinking French people are from France. N’est pas.

    Anyways, interesting site.

    For those interested in the “vibrant” Quebec Economy refer to:

    http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20070319_103229_103229&source=srch

    For reinforcement you could also reference this one.

    http://www.fraserinstitute.org/Commerce.Web/product_files/Nov07FFqcinvest.pdf

    Of course you will likely tell me the research is totally invalid due to the fact that its was compiled by anglo’s.

    And you wonder why people leave Quebec.

    ABP

    ABP

    April 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

  11. Nice post!

    Seems to me that all that’s stopping Montreal from being is full, prosperous, bilingual self — with Bill 101 there to keep the French fires burning — is the end of a threat of separation. You’d see TONS of investment money appear if that ever came to pass. Montreal deserves to be the richest city in North America; what a shame that investors are scared off!

    hoo-boy

    April 20, 2008 at 8:30 pm

  12. Interesting theory – AFG’s about how anglos benefit from Montreal remaining mainly French speaking.

    I am totally in agreement with the idea that Montreal in general has largely avoided “colder Cleveland” status because of its Frenchness, given that is has a pretty good stranglehold on the migration of francophones from remote regions of Quebec (and even northern NB to some degree). Don’t let the small Québécois colonies in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, etc. fool you. They`re just drops in the bucket when compared to how many francophones from across Quebec have moved to the Montreal area. Also, where is a large Quebec-owned corporation going to have its headquarters if it`s not in or around Montreal? Corporate Anglo-Canada and America are by their very nature much more mobile creatures than corporate Quebec, and this easy mobility can often doom an entire city if they decide to jump ship for greener (and often, in the U.S. case, warmer) pastures.

    However, I have to disagree that all of this has had anything but a very indirect impact on the prosperity and quality of life of Anglo-Montrealers. OK, maybe it has meant they have been able to live in a relatively pleasant city that`s avoided much of the urban blight seen in other older industrial cities, but beyond that? I dunno. For starters, most anglos in Montreal earn their living outside of the “new Quebec“ economy characterized by Quebecor, Alimentation Couche-Tard, etc. Anglos are generally active in what remains of the old anglo establishment in Montreal, which explains why a relatively significant proportion of them still cannot speak French fluently.

    For most of these people, the French character of their city is sort of like a fake town in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western movie set. You know, you can see all the facades of the buildings, it all looks really cool but what`s behind the facade is totally irrelevant to you.

    Acajack

    April 20, 2008 at 8:40 pm

  13. ABP:

    I suspect that AFG knows that French people live in France, and that Québécois people live in Quebec. He`s just playing to his audience I suppose, given that our English-speaking compatriots have the unfortunate tendency to always refer to us as “French“*. Always a good idea to be aware of who you`re dealing with, I always say, and I suspect this is the case here as well.

    *And curiously enough, francophones also (unfortunately) tend to refer to Canadian anglophones as ‘les Anglais`, which doesn`t please me either.

    Regarding Quebec`s economy…

    Surely things in Quebec can and must improve, but could someone please explain to me how things can be so bad in Quebec when Montreal`s jobless rate has been lower than land-of-milk-and-honey-Toronto`s unemployment rate (for the first time in living memory) in recent months? ABP, it would be interesting (just for fun) to know where you live. Not that people living elsewhere in Canada, or in Mongolia for that matter, don`t have the right to comment on Quebec affairs, but there always seem to be a lot of people in Canada but outside Quebec who are much more preoccupied with Quebec`s situation (economy, second language teaching, prevalence of bilingual signs) than these same issues in the place they call home. Makes me wonder sometimes…

    Awww… maybe they do care about us after all! (Feeling all warm and lovy-dovy inside…)

    Acajack

    April 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm

  14. Acajack,

    Thats and interesting handle. could it be Acadian Jack..”ou” Jacques… just a wild guess…

    Yes, I suspect AFG knows the difference between ” the french from France and those from Quebec….but maybe he should change his handle as it would be likely more appropriate as I believe he is Quebecois. Of course if he would like to be more associated with France than Quebec then I suppose thats up to him!!

    Unemployment…there are statistics to indicate that there is less unemployment in Montreal than in Toronto…Could be the case but then as an economic indicator you have to look at pay scales to really make a comparison. This brings in to effect cost of living which is no doubt lower in Montreal….Montreal is actually the brightest star in Quebec at this time.. (makes one wonder considering Montreal is the most Anglo region in Quebec so I am told…Oh Oh…Dont shoot me for that comment) BUT, the economies of both Ontario and Quebec are in severe decline due to the onsetting recession in the US and the value of the Cdn dollar being driven by the western province’s commodity pricing. (Must be a Condundrum for the Bank of Canada). This is making our exports to the US very expensive and thus less competitive….

    Essentially, the manufacturing sector which is the keystone of the economy in both Ontario and Quebec is going away and may not return due to global pressures. I hope this is not the case but I fear it to be the future. I believe the figure is 47000 jobs lost in the two provinces over the last few months. Yes, Montreal has picked up the pace….but the province as a whole has lost (forestry, pulp mills etc) Ontario the same (auto manufacturing) . Our country is large in mass but small by population…I doubt our 30 dollar per an hour auto workers can produce vehicles for less than 2500.00 as they are doing in India and soon from China. Again, just my take on it, and I dont know a hell of a lot about world economics.

    Where I am from??

    Well, your getting kind of personal but I am from the place that makes the great berry pies… “Meme chose comme votre tortier (fabulous) mais avec la baises de S..t..n. Not much of a mind riddle is it?

    I also pay taxes in Quebec (Stiff taxes I might add) as well, so I have an interest…(NDG, Verdun et Laval)…I havent checked to see if they will allow me to vote in municipal elections..:):)

    I also have a daughter attending Poly Sci/Law at McGill and two wonderful “petit enfants” a’ Montreal.
    These are of much larger interest to me and BTW very much enjoy the city as do I when I visit.

    So much for the personal things.

    Bilingual signs…I can always plead ignorance of the langue if I run through a stop sign -I thought arret meant go –le anglo se fous :)

    Yes, the rest of canada does care I think….Why else would they have agreed to the OLA and other french imperative programs which have cost 100’s of billions of dollars. Why else you have they rallied to keep Quebec as part of Canada in the 95 Referendum…maybe right or wrong for the Quebecois agenda…In the end Quebec will decide what it wants to do.

    Feeling warm and lovey dovey…well I dont know about that….c’est possible avec les belle femmes du Quebec….Merdes,,,I forgot I am already married to a franco from the west. !!!

    Have a good day “ou bonne journee”

    ABP

    ABP

    April 21, 2008 at 12:41 am

  15. ABP,

    Saskatoon, eh? Congratulations on your province’s booming economy!

    My point wasn’t to say that all was rosy in Quebec, and I think that was pretty clear. It’s just that a lot of people tend to equate the fact that this province is mainly French-speaking (and seem to wish to remain so) as being the source of its economic problems. ”Everything would be fine in Quebec if it only woke up and smelled (smelt?) the anglo coffee!” OK, but how does that explain Ontario (these days)? Or most of Atlantic Canada?

    Even the separation threat/PQ government thing is a worn-out argument. Unemployment in Quebec was lower in 2003 when the PQ handed over the keys to Jean Charest than in 1976 when the PQ first took power from the Liberals. Unemployment rates will rise and fall over the years, and not always in line with the colour of the government in Quebec City.

    Plus, everything was not exactly rosy in Quebec before the separatist movement started shaking things up in the 60s and 70s. As AFG has already mentioned, the westward movement of economic activity on this continent began before anyone had heard of René Lévesque. It is pretty much a constant in North American history. Toronto benefited greatly from this trend (exacerbated by anglo flight from Quebec it is true) in the latter half of the 20th century, and TO is now appears to be poised to take a major hit from the very same trend that made its greatness.

    PS – Impressive analysis of my “handle”… not that far off!

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 8:09 am

  16. One other point:

    Montreal is not the most anglo area of Quebec. That would be the Pontiac, which is just west of Gatineau and across the Ottawa River from places like Pembroke and Petawawa. Not to disparage it, but the Pontiac is quite economically depressed, hard hit by the decline of resource-based industries and rural exodus. It’s also a bit too far from Gatineau and Ottawa to get any spin-off benefits from these areas’ prosperity.

    Also, Gatineau is about as anglo as Greater Montreal (between 15 and 20% anglo), and is also doing quite well economically. The Eastern Townships (especially Sherbrooke) are doing well also, but are only about 5% anglo in spite of their history and place names. The entire Quebec City region is booming* as are the Laurentians north of Montreal (mainly because of tourism in this latter case). Things are tougher in Mauricie (around Trois-Rivières), Abitibi-Témiscamingue (northwest), and Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean and Gaspésie. As is the case elsewhere, these areas in difficulty have older, resource-based economies.

    *Booming here has to be taken in context. Not “booming” in the Fort McMurray sense of the word, but in the context of northeastern North America, these areas are doing very well.

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 8:18 am

  17. My .0201 CDN (2 cents American)

    I find this blog and the comments very interesting so firstly, I’d like to say thanks to AFG et Alii. I am an American (from New York City) who emigrated to Montreal about two years ago.

    This issue (the Frenchness of Montreal and Quebec) is a complicated one and I have to say I’ve wrestled with the situation a bunch myself (trying to understand it — pestering my Canadian friends to explain it to me — btw, they’re all sick of my questions.) I still don’t entirely get it (this blog is helping) but my own sense of the entire situation has changed completely from when I first came here.

    When I first came to Quebec (and for a while afterwards) I felt that the Quebecois solely should be able to determine the future of Quebec and that things like Bill 101 were necessary. Now, my opinion leans much more toward seeng Quebec as a somewhat dysfunctional place politically and economically and toward seeing Montreal as a dog jerked around by a Quebec-held leash.

    As I say, I realize the issue is complicated and I offer this only because 1) I would be generally interested in what everyone has to tell me and 2) because it might be interesting to someone else to have an outsider — albeit an American anglo — perspective. Over the past two/three years, I’ve met anglos who couldn’t find jobs because their French wasn’t good enough, francos who still believed that rich Westmount anglos controlled everything and my Italian-Canadian, Montreal-reared boyfriend who speaks three languages fluently and is sick of the entire debate. I find little “truth” anywhere.

    Firstly, as is pointed out elsewhere on this site — the fact is that Quebec is in North America and is inextricably bound up in this continent’s economy. It provides everything from sophisticated aerospace products to the American military to artisinal cheeses to British Columbians. English is, unfortunately for the Quebecois, very important and yet Quebec spends so much time and money fighting it that it’s senseless. I always hear it bandied about that if Quebec were an independent nation, it would be a country like Sweden or somesuch. What that ignores (and this comes from someone who has a Scandinavian mother) is that the vast majority of Swedish people speak English flawlessly. The same is true for the other European countries: the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, etc. None of them is any less Norwegian or Danish or Dutch — they have learned that it’s to their long term benefit to be able to do business with the world. Quebec has not and it’s done a huge disservice especially to its francophone children. Even if it were to become independent, Quebec is not and will never be an island off the coast of France and it needs to realize that. Period.

    Other aspects of Quebec’s separatist mindset just seem like blatant and vindictive violations of individual rights to me (and yes, I realize from having read Taras Grescoe’s excellent book that primary concern for individual rights over collective rights is much more an English tradition than a French one) — but not being able to choose the language of instruction for one’s children is ridiculous to me and I won’t even get started on the fact that this only really applies to middle and working class children, not to the wealthy as the fact that several PQ and Bloc politicians send their children to anglo schools will attest.

    Understand, I’m not saying that I want Quebec’s unique culture to go away — not by a long shot — it’s what drew me here and it’s what is keeping me here. I just think that Quebec — as HEC professor Germain Belzile has written — needs to open itself up to the world. Should francophones be able to work and live in French in Quebec? Yes, absolutely. Should anglos be able to speak French fluently. Yes, absolutely. But should francophones also learn good English in Quebec…yes and further to the point, there’s no reason for them not to. Make children in anglo schools prove they can speak French in order to get a high school diploma if you want; make sure that French-speaking patrons can be served in French at the Bay. Equally, make sure that francophones aren’t denied jobs on the basis of language BUT BUT BUT stop this ridiculous hand-wringing over how much English is spoken on the streets of downtown Montreal or whether elderly anglophones in the Townships are entitled to English signs in the hospitals that serve them. It’s dumb and small-minded. It seems to me rather than legislating the size of English text on signs and the language of instruction for another person’s children, this time and money would be much better spent making sure that Quebec was able to function as a francophone society in an English North American reality. Lastly, realize that Montreal is the engine that keeps Quebec running. Just as Amsterdam is not truly Dutch, London is not truly English and New York is not truly American, Montreal should be able to thrive as the International city it is, not as the petty provincial “capital” it seems to be becoming.

    Quebec really could show the rest of Canada and the world how it should be done — we should be the Sweden of North America. Instead, it cowers and controls and fights with people over whether someone has a right to educate their own child — at home — in a language other than French. And I say this as someone who truly truly loves Quebec. *sigh*

    Oh, I guess I should add the further anecdotal evidence that my trilingual Montrealer boyfriend is now considering taking his Quebec-financed PhD education to America or to the ROC because of the lack of jobs here.

    Edgy555

    April 21, 2008 at 2:27 pm

  18. Thank you for comments Edgy.

    Don’t know how this will come across, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but you claim to have read some (many?) posts on this site, but from your comments it sounds as though you haven’t really understood anything at all of what the francophones here have been saying.

    Case in point: Sweden. Or Denmark. Or Norway. Or the Netherlands. Well, as a matter of fact I have been to all of these countries and know people from each one of them. (Lo and behold, anglos aren’t the only people who have had the privilege of travelling abroad and meeting people from different cultures…)

    Yes, I noticed that people in these places have an impressive command of English and are very “zen” about speaking it. Of course, contrary to a lot of people in Quebec, they don’t have to speak their second language all the time to work for their national government, serve in the army, work for a local company or perhaps buy a carton of milk at their local corner store. Sure, Bjorn working at Volvo in Stockholm will trot out his impressive English when the American Volvo Dealers’ Association comes in for a visit, but once they leave he’ll go back to working in Swedish, just like pretty much everyone else in town.

    Also, contrary to Quebec, none of these countries has local institutions (governmental, cultural or educational) that function completely in another language other than the majority one. One cannot become an engineer only in English in Copenhagen, for example.

    I could go on and on, but I will end this segment of my response with a question: why are you comparing Quebec, a mere province of Canada, to independent, sovereign countries?

    Regarding “blatant and vindictive violations of individual rights”…hmmm. Say I wanted to move to the States, could you please point to me where I could fill out a form so that my kids can attend public French-language schools entirely funded by American taxpayers? Or how about public Spanish-language elementary and high schools (I’ll be nice and won’t push it to college and university) in American towns where 99% of the population speaks Spanish and has for centuries? Where are they? I must’ve missed all those Spanish-language public schools them the last time I was in South Texas… Dang!

    I think you seriously misunderstand the place of the English-language school system in Quebec, which is there for the benefit of English-speaking Canadians who live in Quebec or move here, not for immigrants from abroad. Successive Quebec governments (both PQ and Liberal) have made the choice that the children of newcomers to this society would be educated and integrated in the francophone community.

    Does this mean that I think second language instruction in English should be improved (possibly to Scandinavian levels) in francophone schools? Of course I think it should be improved.

    But all of this heart-on-the-sleeve concern for bilingualism and for my kids’ future (God help ‘em!) begs a question: after two years here, how’s your French, Edgy?

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

  19. Damn you Acajack! You said exactly what I was going to say! And better than I would’ve.

    This idea that Québec violates a supposed “right to choose” the language of education when it is one of the only places in North America, and even the world, where this possibility exists at all, is infuriating.

    When San Antonio gets two Spanish universities, when Toronto starts training 200 French-speaking doctors a year and when Vancouver gets a complete governement-funded network of public Cantonese schools, we’ll talk about freedom to choose.

    So I have nothing to add.

    But still, Edgy555, it’s nice to hear an articulated American point of view and I hope you’ll keep coming around.

    angryfrenchguy

    April 21, 2008 at 4:30 pm

  20. Acajack,

    Yep, Saskatoon ,aka ,the prairie gem. The economy is indeed booming here (about time) but of course there are problems with a booming economy (one problem: House prices have over doubled in the past year making it unaffordable for some to secure reasonable housing–apartments are being converted to condos making rental accomodation difficult also)

    No I dont think the french is the issue as for the most part people in Quebec speak both languages (wished I could speak french better) …I think the problems are more focused upon the issues raised in the McCleans article and those compiled in the Fraser Report. Quebec has a lot of big government and big unions which tend to scare off investment. I think Quebec has to look at its current policies and see where changes can be made to reflect a better investment climate to those outside of Quebec. Reading the on-line MGazette I happened on an editorial about Jacques Menard, the president I believe of BMO Financial Services In Quebec. Menard pretty well echos the issues in the two articles I posted. I am sure you already know about what he is proposing but if not this link will take you to his blog site. Pretty interesting stuff and especially comments posted about his proposals.

    http://www.sionsymettait.com/

    Some claim he is just another right wing heavy hitter but I think he might be on the right track and he certainly with his backgound I would thinkg would have a grasp on economic issues facing Quebec. His bio is included on the blog.

    You are likely right about the movement of economic activity…and the challenges Ontario is now facing which are similar to those in Quebec.

    Thanks for setting me straight on the Pontiac region…I did not know this fact. Unfortunate they are having tough times.
    I would think by number there would be more anglos in Montreal….but not as a percentage of total population. Perhaps I am wrong about this.

    Good to hear things are good in Quebec City and in some of the other areas. Tourism does play an important role in this economy…I am thinking Tourism might be down with the bad news in the US but I think many come to this area from Europe and other countries. Is definately a nice area for sure.

    I think the size of the boom is directly related to the problems !!! What is going on in Fort MacMurray is truly “a wild west story” with attendent problems to overcome.

    ABP

    April 21, 2008 at 4:43 pm

  21. Je parle français comme un Américain qui a habité à Montréal pendant deux années. Je parle français aux francophones à Montréal, par exemple et j’assiste à des concerts français (j’adore Pierre Lapointe.) Est-ce que l’anglais est plus facile pour moi? Absolument. Mais j’ai pris trois cours de français intensifs et je sais qu’il est important de parler meilleur français. Comme j’ai dit, j’aime beaucoup la culture québecoise et je veux pouvoir participer à la vie qui existe ici.

    Anyway, I really appreciate your comments, Acajack. Truthfully. I was being completely honest and truthful and expecting an honest and truthful answer. You can’t imagine how hard it is to come to Quebec and figure out this debate. I hope I sound respectful as well. It doesn’t help that it seems that those around me (having grown up in Montreal) are somewhat tired of debate that continues on without end.

    As to the site, I have been reading it and agreeing with some of it and disagreeing with other parts of it. What I seem to get from your post is that that’s just it — there is no room for compromise. You seem to want (and please correct me if I’m mischaracterizing your opinion) a fully French Quebec and I would prefer to see a Quebec that engages the world while not losing its soul. I don’t seem to be alone in this either, as Professor Belzile has pointed out.

    I appreciate that you have traveled and I didn’t mean to imply this this was exclusively an anglo-dominated privilege (and I’ll say here that it is funny to me that I always get painted with that “anglo” brush even though I feel mostly like a complete foreigner here.) However, I have read studies that both suggest that Quebec francophones are much less likely to travel outside of Quebec and business studies that suggest that the market for Quebec-based business services is very limited outside of Quebec (I work for a Big 4, American Consulting firm.)

    Lastly, to the issue of schooling. I take your point regarding the language of instruction, but I find it difficult to see how restricting my choice for my children (and in truth my choice won’t be restricted because of economics) builds a stronger Quebec. As to the examples of, for example, the Nordic countries, I extend the analogy only because that’s what I have heard PQ and Bloc politicians offer. Perhaps Switzerland is a better example. I don’t know. And as to the non-English education available in the United States, last time I checked, New York City was offering its students full-time, publicly financed education in a number of languages including a controversial program in Arabic alongside “mainstreaming” programs that were bilingual and led to English-only instruction. That’s just it, it’s the choice of the parent. I appreciate that you might not want the choice for your children — to me, that’s your right. I have problems when people restrict the same choice for others.

    And I guess that’s what it comes down to. It seems to me (and again I’m respectfully seeking clarification) that you would prefer that there not be a choice in any of these realms (government, schooling, signage) and that we ignore the fact that not only is there a sizeable and historic anglo population in Quebec but that it is also surrounded by a multitude of unilingual English speakers. Being able to engage them and to protect the rights of both native-born and immigrants alike seems just sensible to me. Seems to have worked for the Italian community which has not only kept their native language better than their American counterparts but learned English and French to boot and because of a quirk of history, largely chooses to educate their children in English.

    So my modest American proposal is the following (yes, I know I’m being very American in offering solutions to other peoples’ problems without being asked ;-) )

    1) Open up schooling completely. Yes, even to immigrants. Require that those not doing a program wholly in French achieve French fluency through bilingual instruction. Further, teach English in French schools as if it actually counted for something.

    2) Align the immigration policies of the province with Quebec’s actual needs. Go after Americans, for example. In fact, go after high-skilled immigrants from anywhere regardless of language and make sure that they get the French instruction they need. As is pointed out elsewhere on this site, all that’s coming of current Quebec immigration policies is an influx of people from countries very different from Canada who have trouble finding employment. I’m certainly not saying to exclude them but I think Quebec falters when it thinks that a French-speaking North African immigrant will have an easier time than an English-speaking American one in assimilating.

    3) Mandate that everyone has a right to be served in French. Period. Likewise, that no one be denied employment because of their inability to speak a language other than French.

    4) Let community standards dictate signage. Elderly anglos in the Townships should be able to walk into a hospital and find their way around in English. The Town of Mount Royal should be able to decide for itself what language to use on street signs. All Quebec achieves from pushing these issues is resentment on all sides.

    OK, so there it is. I assure you I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but will someone please explain to me (a clueless American lost in Quebec) why this would result in the destruction of all that is held dear in this province.

    Edgy555

    April 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm

  22. My friend Edgy

    point 1: “Open up schooling completely.”

    No.

    Totally unreasonnable. Very secure cultures like the American, the British and the French would never accept to “open” public education. There is no reason why a fragile culture like Québec’s should.

    By the way, the New York City dual language program is nothing like Québec’s English sector. From Khalil Gibran international Academy’s website:

    “The school will require that all students take Arabic as a second language to fulfill the Arabic Regents requirements.”

    Not quite an Arabic public school.

    That type of dual-language school already exist in Québec. There are a few for the Jewish community and at least one for the Armenian community.

    And I’m surprised that I have to explain to an American why a segregated school system is not a good idea.

    Point 2) “Align the immigration policies of the province with Quebec’s actual needs.”

    Yes and no.

    French training in the workplace is probably one way to go. In fact, the respective place of French and English in the workplace needs to be re-examined.

    There is an enormous amount of potential immigrants from French-speaking countries right now. It would be suicidal for Québec not to recruit as many of them as it can, especially if it’s to take English-speaking ones instead.

    3) “Mandate that everyone has a right to be served in French. Period. Likewise, that no one be denied employment because of their inability to speak a language other than French.”

    Done. Bill 101, title I chapter II. Adopted 1977. Enforced? They call those of us who say it should be radicals. Maybe you can put in a word for us?

    Point 4) “Let community standards dictate signage.”

    Again. Done.

    Private business’ have had the right to bilingual signs since 1993, as long as French is predominant.

    The fact that most businesses French-only signs today has nothing to do with the law. I would speculate it is because most Anglophones do not mind or have learned to live with French signs while Francos, for whatever reason, still react negatively to English signage. After years of legal battles over this issue, it is probably because English and even bilingual signs are often perceived as defiant Angryphone statements by Francophones.

    Business people, who usually shy away from controversial political issues, seem to be sticking with French-only as the non-confrontational standard. The community standard.

    English signs in the hospital for the English-speakers in the townships?

    My mother is hospitalized at the Montreal General Hospital (French-speaking population: 65%). Her doctor doesn’t speak French. Half the nurses don’t speak French. Her medical file is completely written in English.

    Now I’m going to try to feel sorry for Anglophones in the townships (5% of the population) because there are no English signs in the hallways at the Brome hospital…

    Sorry. I just don’t.

    Hope I’m not sounding arrogant either. Très bon Français, by the way.

    angryfrenchguy

    April 21, 2008 at 5:59 pm

  23. “Thanks for setting me straight on the Pontiac region…I did not know this fact. Unfortunate they are having tough times.
    I would think by number there would be more anglos in Montreal….but not as a percentage of total population. Perhaps I am wrong about this.”

    You’re actually bang on with this. In absolute numbers of anglos (or pretty much any group for that matter) no area of Quebec comes close to Montreal.

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 9:25 pm

  24. I don’t see what the big deal is about anglos getting to send their kids to school in English. As I understand it, the challenge is to encourage allophones to identify with French to the extent that their children grow up francophone. The goal is not to francicise the anglos.

    Practicalities apart, access to English-language education for anglophones is guaranteed by the 19th century deal on schools, n’est-ce pas? (MGP please provide full citations.) The deal being basically that Quebec wouldn’t try and assimilate / oppress the anglos and Ontario and Manitoba wouldn’t try and assimilate / oppress their francophones. Seems like it’s working out pretty well, all told. Without a deal of that type, the Cajuns didn’t last anywhere near so long.

    hoo-boy

    April 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm

  25. Edgy555:

    Congratulations on showing me up after my smart-assed question by showcasing your impressive French! It’ll help keep me honest…

    Regarding your comments about me wanting a fully French Quebec, well… I should say that I fully recognize the historical presence and contribution of the anglo community here. But I am completely stumped as to what would be a good equilibrium for this society, since I don’t really think that the balance can be tipped that much further without putting Montreal (and eventually the rest of Quebec) onto the slippery slope to Louisianization. If everything Quebec has done to favour French since 1976 has only led to French barely holding its own three decades later, then one of two things is apparent: either 1) we’re not doing this right, or 2) it’s a hopeless case to begin with.

    Now, please don’t anyone tell me Quebec should have opted for the carrot (as opposed to the proverbial stick) by making French more sexy, fun, etc. You see, I am actually a minority French Canadian from the ROC, and the carrot approach has been attempted (actually, it was the only thing they could do, since they generally lack political power) by countless communities outside Quebec faced with anglicization. The most striking example is the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, which has been completely transformed in about 20 years from a predominantly French-speaking place to one where French is astonishingly rarely heard in public, and pretty much the only signs the language appears on are the ones bear the old French street names.

    Now, my vision to reconcile Quebec’s schools has been discussed on this blog before. It would be a unified school system where about 80 to 85% of the day would be in French, and the rest in English. The idea was actually first floated by an anglo rights group (Greater Quebec Movement), who complained that French instruction in anglo schools is insufficient. This would also address the shortcomings of the French schools with respect to English teaching. Alas, such a change would be impossible to achieve in the current political structure (the Canadian Constitution guarantees minority language schooling), and to be honest it would really take an independent Quebec for such a radical change in our schools to take place.

    What’s it like elsewhere? You alluded to the Nordic countries… Well, once again, they are countries, Quebec is a province of a country where the majority speaks a different language. But from what I gather, their school systems are pretty good, and no one objects to good, intensive English teaching there because no one feels their people have had English shoved down their throats over the years (rightly or wrongly, that’s how many people in Quebec feel). I have also learned from my friends from these places that their perfect English has as much to do with watching subtitled American TV shows and movies as it does with their schools. You see, most of these places have too small population bases to justify dubbing Bruce Willis into Norwegian (dubbing costs $$$$), so they just subtitle him (and all the others). There being a very large global market for French-language dubs (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Francophone Africa, Lebanon, etc.), Quebec francophones can and do watch Bruce Willis speaking French (or at least someone dubbing his voice), and thus miss out on a golden opportunity to learn a second language, I suppose.

    As for Switzerland, there is generally no minority language schooling there. If you’re German-speaking Swiss and you move to French-speaking Geneva, the schools (as well as all other public services like courts, post offices, hospitals, etc.) are all in French, with all other languages taught as foreign languages (taught pretty well, but still as foreign languages). In fact, in same cases you can’t even open a private school teaching in another language, even with your own money. Some years ago, a group of francophone parents in German-speaking Zurich tried to open a private French language school and were prevented from doing so by the cantonal (similar to our provincial) government. The parents took their case all the way to the highest court in Switzerland and… lost. Kanton von Zurich is German and all the kids there go to school in German. Point final.

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 10:06 pm

  26. I agree with Acajack. I think the ultimate objective should be a single school system. That will forever change Québec francophone society just as much as Québec Anglo society, but it is a necesary step that will have to be taken at some point.

    Segregation cannot continue indefinately. If it does, our grandchildren will be having the exact same discussions we are having. And their children too.

    Francophones outside Québec have the right to French schools because there came a point when there was no other logical way to justify Québec’s English institutions.

    It’s like if Mexico and the United States made a deal to give linguistic minorities reciprocal rights. The Southwest would become an almost exclusively Spanish-speaking place in less than a generation while Mexico would have to open, what, 2 public schools for the children of hippies in Baja?

    50% of Francophones outside Québec (except for the Acadians) disapear with every generation. They’re assimilation was slowed in order to give Anglo-Quebecers, at that time the wealthiest and most powerful community in Canada, the constitutional right to protect and expand it’s institutions.

    Québec is a society that functions in French within the English-speaking North American continent. It’s schools should educate children that are naturally able to do that. There is no need for two school systems.

    angryfrenchguy

    April 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm

  27. Hoo boy:

    I think my previous post partly answered your question.

    To clarify though, I’d say that there is no real movement in Quebec to keep English-speaking Canadians from having their kids attend English-first schools. The idea of an integrated school system has been floated around here, but even its proponents recognize it is probably impossible to achieve in the Canadian context. And even an independent Quebec might not go that route, even though it would be free to do so. I know that Finland had a similar situation with its Swedish-speaking minority when it became independent from Sweden. Finland retained its Swedish-language school system, which exists to this day, even though the Swedish community has somewhat dwindled in numbers.

    Regarding the 19th century deal, I presume you are referring to the British North America Act provisions on education. Well, in actual fact, they weren’t really about language, but rather about religion. What they initially wanted to guarantee was Protestant schools for the then powerful and influential WASP anglo minority population of Quebec (since Protestant = anglo at the time). In turn, the Irish population of Ontario quickly said “hey, what about us!”, and lobbied fiercely to get similar status for separate Catholic schools in what was a massively Protestant province. Francophones in various provinces then used these provisions to attempt to set up their own Catholic French schools (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully), but this was not the original objective of the “deal”. So the deal was mainly to protect anglos in Quebec, but ended up protecting Catholics (both francophone and anglophone) in Ontario, who still have their own separate schools to this day. In Ontario at least, the Irish Catholics didn’t take too kindly to the francophones’ “us too” strategy, and lobbied for the elimination of French schooling altogether. This led to the Regulation 17 ban on French schooling in Ontario, which was in effect from 1912 until 1927. French schooling slowly returned to Ontario thereafter, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Franco-Ontarians actually got their own high schools. Similar crap went on in Manitoba around the turn of the century, under the Manitoba Schools Act, and clearly in violation of the so-called “19th century deal”…

    Acajack

    April 21, 2008 at 10:24 pm

  28. Edgy wrote:

    “as the fact that several PQ and Bloc politicians send their children to anglo schools will attest.”

    This is one of those “facts” that live on their own in the Anglo psyche without anyone ever having to prove it.

    Really. I’ve heard this so many time yet not a single person has ever been able to prove to me that a single child of a single Bloc or PQ MP or MNA attends an English school.

    It is an open invitation. Anybody?

    angryfrenchguy

    April 22, 2008 at 9:14 am

  29. The most frequent evocation of the “PQ-BQ kids in anglo private schools” myth related to Lucien Bouchard, whose two sons actually went to upper crust but franco Brébeuf. (Where they assuredly got excellent second language teaching in English, granted.)

    I guess it probably had something to do with Bouchard’s wife, Audrey Best, being an American. There were also rumours of Bouchard pursuing independence for Quebec in spite of the fact that his family life was entirely in English, owing to his American wife. Though we don’t know what went on in the Bouchard-Best home, it’s highly unlikely that they only spoke English at home, since Audrey Best speaks excellent French, being the daughter of a Frenchwoman and an American serviceman. I actually think she lived in France for some time.

    This is all part of the myth that the “French thing” is somehow an artificial construct, and that secretly everyone in Quebec speaks English most of the time behind closed doors, but French outside for apperances’ sake (and to extract more and more advantages from Ottawa with the separation threat).

    Just goes to show how many people out there can’t seem to fathom the possibility that some people in North America (millions in fact) actually go about their entire daily lives (and live them fully!) in a language other than English. What a concept: living a complete life in North America (without being a recluse) yet having no idea who David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jerry Seinfeld and even Oprah Winfrey are!

    Acajack

    April 22, 2008 at 10:09 am

  30. Actually about 120 million people speak a laguage other than French or English in North America.

    Why does everybody foget about Mexico?

    Roger

    April 22, 2008 at 10:24 am


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