AngryFrenchGuy

Quebec’s Bizarre Segregated School System

with 161 comments

Montreal English Schools

In 1969, just a couple of years after the United States government had to send in the army to protect black students being integrated into Little Rock, Arkansas schools in spite of the violent opposition of a certain segment of the white population, the municipality of Saint-Léonard on the Montreal island went through it’s own episodes of violent riots over the integration of minorities.

The only difference is that in the case of Saint-Léonard, the white, French-speaking, majority was rioting against segregation, not in support of it.

Québec’s segregated school system is as old as Canada. It was a compromise of sorts between the Protestant industrialists of Montreal and the all powerful Catholic clergy who agreed that the province would have two completely separate and independently run school systems : one Protestant, one Catholic, which with time morphed into French and English-language systems. The dual school systems were constitutionalised in 1867 and, to this day, Québec is the only Canadian province constitutionally obligated to maintain « separate but equal » schools.

The Parti Québécois did it’s best in 1977 to create modern integrated system for all children, regardless of their origin, religion or home language.  Bill 101 established that all of Québec’s children would from now on study  and receive their education in French, the majority’s language.

Except for Québec’s English-speaking minority, of course, who’s right to it’s own parallel school system was protected.  To this day, anyone who has studied at least one year in an English school somewhere in Canada is allowed to opt out of the majority’s school system.

This, of course, is rationalised on the principal of some supposed right of children to receive education in their language.

That’s interesting because, at least in Montreal, the majority of English-speaking youth are not studying in English at all!

According to the English Montreal School Board as many as three out of four primary school students spend most of their schoolday in classes taught in French.  The so-called “core” program where the majority of classes are taught in English is the least popular of all the school board’s options and is being abandoned by parents who demand immersion and billitteracy curriculum for their children.

Even Québec’s stuffy English Private Schools that only a generation ago prepared kids in penny loafers to rule the world in English are now falling over themselves to provide rich people with the French the publicly-funded system can’t afford.  The students of Westmount’s Selwyn Housenow spend between 50% and 80% of their class time studying in French and have even added a French verse to their school hymn! (Which, I belive, was the number 3 demand in the FLQ manifesto.)

Outside Montreal the situation is even stranger with many English schools having a majority of French students and very few actual Anglos exercising their right to receive an English-language education in Québec.  In Québec City close to 60% of the students in English schools are Francophones.  This is possible because French-speaking, or for that matter, any family that has obtained a certificate of eligibility to English schools through, for example, a mixed marriage, can keep passing the privilege along to further generations until the End of Time.

(For example I posses one of the fabled Certificates of eligibility even though I was raised in a French-speaking household because my father was an alumni of the very English Lower Canada College. Had I exercised that right, I would have been able to pass it on to my descendants, regardless of the language they speak at home, as long as at least one kid from every generation studied for at least one year in an English school somewhere in Canada.

I, however, decided not to follow my father’s footsteps in the land of crew cuts (and also shattered my mother’s dream that I would study with the Jesuits of Brébeuf College like Pierre Elliot Trudeau) and once the ultra-nationalist unionized separatist teachers of l’École Notre-Dame-de-Grâce primary school were done thoroughly brainwashing my young impressionable mind, I decided to go to a multicultural French-language public High School instead.

So my family no longer belongs to the elusive society of the eligible…)

Hey, it’s not that it’s a bad idea for Québec’s English-speaking kids to take classes in French. What’s profoundly bizarre is the concept of English-speaking children immersing themselves in French in schools with no French kids two blocks away from an actual French school…

As even the Montreal Gazette reported, the result is technically bilingual kids who don’t know any French people and who are uncomfortable ordering a burger in French at McDonalds.

On the French side there is growing tension between proponents and opponents to the kind of bilingual programs that have become common on the English side.  While there is a lot of demand for them, opponents feel that the French schools’ mission of integrating immigrants into Québec society, especially in Montréal, could be seriously compromised if more English was introduced in the schools.

As a result, many French-speaking families in Montreal are massively abandoning the public school system for private schools that offer, among other things, better English classes.  Between 2001 and 2006 the number of students in Montreal’s private schools leaped by 30%.

All this together leads to a profoundly dyslexic school arrangement.  Immigrants to Québec are now intergrating themselves into Québec society in schools with no French-speaking Québécois, while Québec Francophones send their children to private schools.  Montréal Anglos are building their own parallel French school network with no French students while Francophones in the rest of the province are keeping an English school system alive even though there are no more actual English-speaking students.

Written by angryfrenchguy

August 18, 2009 at 3:04 pm

161 Responses

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  1. AFG,

    You confuse me sometimes. Last week we had a discussion about Canadian multiculturalism, where you gave me an impression that you were a Jean N-type a guy, who would turn every immigrant into a paleo-Quebecois. In this post, you seem to be willing to accept those that integrate but do not assimilate. That was my point exactly – ensure that people are capable of functioning in the society (whether Canadian or Quebecois), without demanding that they become clones of a prototypical Montreal Est Rejean. Leave it at that and we’re all happy.

    2 questions:

    1. I always had difficulty understanding this: if Francophones in Quebec are the majority, why do we need the language laws? You’re either the majority and don’t need such laws, or you’re not the majority and need them. Either or, not both.

    2. How do you understand the “right to be served in French”? Beyond punishing the business economically (not shopping where there is no service in French), what else can you do? Have the OLF raid businesses and fine those that greet them with “bonjour/hello” or “hello”, rather than “bonjour”? I think even you know that this would be crossing the line.

    allophone

    August 22, 2009 at 11:25 am

  2. Intergration v. Assimilation

    No tidy answers here but two points:

    1. Non Franco-majoritiers must (and to a large extent already do) accept that the majority of Québécois have made it very clear that they expect to be able to live, work and shop in French.

    2. Paleo-Québécois need to understand that the intergration of Anglos and immigrants in a common space and culture that functions in French will transform this culture. There is going to be a lot less Normand Brathwaits’ and Gregory Charles’ and a lot more Yvon Krevé and Muzions.

    French as a common work, education and government language does not deprive anyone from his right to live his family and personal life in any language he or she chooses.

    A culture that evolves and transforms while keeping the french language as our common tool of communication should not threaten even the most conservative Québécois.

    “1. I always had difficulty understanding this: if Francophones in Quebec are the majority, why do we need the language laws? You’re either the majority and don’t need such laws, or you’re not the majority and need them. Either or, not both.”

    Fuck, I don’t know man… D’you ever take a history course? You are apparently under the illusion that the current level of French service available was the same before bill 101 as it is now. I don’t know what to tell you. Read a book.

    There used to be an oligopole of merchants in downtown Montreal and Québec that “fixed” the business language as English. One business would have sufferd from people avoiding his store, but back in the day there was no other option. People were litteraly forced to do business in English.

    Bill 101 gave the people strong tools to fight an extreme discrimination situation.

    Do we still need those tools? Has the culture changed enough?

    Maybe. I tried to start a wiki to see if people could come up with an updated version of the rules but so far all I’ve got is a couple of guys who inserted the word “penis” into the sign law…

    “2. How do you understand the “right to be served in French”? Beyond punishing the business economically (not shopping where there is no service in French), what else can you do? Have the OLF raid businesses and fine those that greet them with “bonjour/hello” or “hello”, rather than “bonjour”? I think even you know that this would be crossing the line.”

    I ask a question in French, I get an answer in French. I open a a commercial webpage and there is a French version available. I’d really like to see some evidence of a merchant who was perfectly able to serve his customers in French has ever been fined solely for greeting someone in English.

    I know that rule is on the books and it is certainly a part of the law that I find silly, like the unenforcable concept that the name of the store must be in French.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

  3. “What are you talking about? Where the fuck is there a garantee that 100% of interactions downtown are in French?”

    In the hypothetical world I created for the purpose of asking my question. I was asking if you would, if such a situation existed (all business in Montreal was done in French) favour forcing the anglo merchants of Kirkland to open up shops on St. Denis? Would you argue, as you are on the school subject, that francophone customers needn’t and won’t worry about a decline in french service?

    RoryBellows

    August 22, 2009 at 1:55 pm

  4. Acajack/Jean—There is an exception that tests every rule, and at the risk of rehashing stuff I’ve written elsewhere here, the exception to the idea that the less widespread culture gets the edge in its own territory a la Latvia, Estonia, etc., occurs in the 19 de jure bilingual (but de facto French speaking) arrondissements of Brussels, which is stuck in the middle of Dutch speaking Flanders.

    The list of grievances that many Flemish nationalists have about Brussels is long, and many of their points mirror things that Jean and other souverainistes have written about Montréal—people refusing to live in Dutch or to serve Dutch speakers in their own language, the idea that the French speakers are occupiers and that those Flemings who admire them are traitors, and so forth. But it all goes on; indeed, the newest complaint among the Flemings is that French speakers are settling the farther suburbs, which are de jure Dutch speaking, and refusing to integrate into the Dutch language.

    Montréal is different from Brussels in that the proportion of English speakers in the metro area is far less than the proportion of French speakers in metro Brussels. The principle does exist, however, that there can be a large city in which a language not spoken in the rest of the territory in which it lies (but dominant elsewhere in the area) has legal safeguards for it notwithstanding. And I will bet my bottom dollar that as long as these safeguards exist, speakers of French in Québec, and of Dutch in Flanders, will try to see that they are abolished.

    littlerob

    August 22, 2009 at 3:55 pm

  5. A few points on the discussion. You recognized the constitutional compromise in the Quebec Act allowing reciprocity, denominational schools in Quebec and Ontario, Protestant ( English) for Quebec and Catholic for Ontario.

    Presumably you are seeking to eliminate such constitutional protection in both Quebec and Ontario, for minority rights, either denominational or linguistic.

    I’ve seen the Catholic Church come in for a great deal of denunciation by ethnic nationalists in these discussions, but would point out that for francophone communities outside Quebec, long before bilingualism and the Official Languages Act, long before the federal government recognized and took an interest in their cultural existence, their only cultural protector was this selfsame Catholic Church.

    There were numerous Manitobans, my father included, who received bursaries to pursue university studies in French at Universite Laval in law, medicine, etc. in the dark ages before the Official languages Act, funded not by the government of Manitoba nor by the federal government but by the much despised Catholic Church. Even today the French language institutions in such communities are Catholic institutions.

    dupmar

    August 22, 2009 at 8:11 pm

  6. I don’t care who speaks what language in the school yard. As for the classroom, it should be entirely French. No province in the ROC would allow for classes to be held entirely in French all of the time in a publicly funded school system. Why should Québec be an exception?

    I agree that it is good for everyone to be exposed to and taught both languages. But that should be a choice left up to those who frequent the school system and it should not be an obligation unless it is within the context of a simple second language course (which is the present case, although English presently taught in French public schools could use a major revamp, much like all other courses–when you can’t ask where the washroom is after five years of English courses, there is a problem). So, math, biology and geography should all be taught in French, and the English as a second language class should address math, biology and geography in English within the context of English as a second language. And I don’t think kids in Québec should be taught to live in English–that would really keep them from integrating into a French-language society. Music, video games and the media are already exposing francophone kids to more English influence than to their own French culture.

    Lastly, religion doesn’t belong in a public school, no matter which religion it is. Teaching religion is the parents’ and the churches’ job.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm

  7. Oh, but that hypothetical situation is what has occurred already. The freedom to choose either or also includes the freedom to isolate oneself from a culture. That IS segregation. Allowing people to freely choose between two systems would create two distinctive groups. Whether people choose to belong to either group or whether they are forced into those groups makes no difference. It is still segregation. And that does anything but help immigrants integrate.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 9:13 pm

  8. @ Vinster171:
    “Don’t you think, AFG, that when you want to learn a new language, you have to start somewhere? I mean, would it be realistic for kids that have been raised in English to start their elementary school in French? Isn’t it better for them to start learning the language slowly, gradually? And if that’s the case, isn’t it great that they are insisting on getting more French classes as time goes by?”

    All I want to say here is that if there are anglophone families who are open enough to French to immerse their kids should simply be allowed to do so. Maybe they are even open enough, if left the choice, to one day simply accept a single French school system. I agree with AFG that this is bizarre, but I also think it is great. It may lead to something. One thing is for sure: by leaving it up to the people, a better openness can be achieved than by forcing it upon them. I think we are on to something…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 9:31 pm

  9. You should debunk your own head of the contained monkeys that have crawled up our back and now seem to posses your head. Watch out Jean…those big scary hairy anglos are out to get you…run Jean run. Remember the boogey man from your childhood.

    ABP

    August 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm

  10. I don’t think anything can be got out of arguing with people who post only to call people cunts. If you can’t respect those you argue with, your arguments cannot weigh any more in the balance than the arguments of those you call cunts. If you think nothing can be got out of arguing with someone, you can always refrain from arguing with that person. Trying to turn other contributors to a discussion against that one individual will only discredit your own arguments.

    Last time I heard people call each other names so gratuitously, I was in a primary school yard (sorry, I can’t remember whether it was in English or in French). I thought the individuals in this discussion were grownups. Oh, well…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 10:26 pm

  11. ”Acajack/Jean—There is an exception that tests every rule, and at the risk of rehashing stuff I’ve written elsewhere here, the exception to the idea that the less widespread culture gets the edge in its own territory a la Latvia, Estonia, etc., occurs in the 19 de jure bilingual (but de facto French speaking) arrondissements of Brussels, which is stuck in the middle of Dutch speaking Flanders.”

    Good point littlerob, but the reason that the exception exists in Brussels is precisely because the francophones form such as crushing majority there (85% or more I`d say).

    Make Montreal 85% English-speaking and everything changes here too, and preserving its French character to the detriment of English becomes much harder to justify.

    That`s why it is really tough to justify pushing Euskadi in the Basque country, because perhaps only 25% of the population of the actual Basque homeland is still Basque speaking today.

    It`s not a walk in the park in Catalonia, but it`s still a lot better there because Catalan speakers are roughly 55%.

    It also works to some degree in Riga, Latvia, because at roughly 40% (vs. 60% Russian speakers), the Latvian speakers that are a minority in their own capital nonetheless have a decent base to start with.

    But in Brussels the francophone majority is just too huge for any real resurgence of Flemish to take place, regardless of that language`s history as the main language of the city.

    Acajack

    August 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

  12. So dupmar, are you of Franco-Manitoban/francophone hors-Québec descent too?

    Acajack

    August 22, 2009 at 10:43 pm

  13. AngryFrenchGirl:
    ”As for the classroom, it should be entirely French. No province in the ROC would allow for classes to be held entirely in French all of the time in a publicly funded school system. Why should Québec be an exception?”

    Just to clarify, there *are* many public schools in every single Canadian province outside Quebec where all classes (except English taught as a second language) are held in French. I went to these schools for at least part of my education and these French school networks were even expanded considerably since my school-age days. The children of many of my friends and family members go to school entirely in French in ”English Canada”.

    Acajack

    August 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

  14. Another little point on this from growing up a francophone outside Quebec. I remember the old saying: la foi gardienne de la langue, et la langue gardienne de la foi (faith guards our language, and language guards our faith).

    Acajack

    August 22, 2009 at 10:52 pm

  15. Could we just stop falsely pretending that the point of Bill 101 is to eradicate English? Really, saying that those who wish to enforce Bill 101 should be prepared for francophones outside of Québec to waive their linguistic rights is just ridiculous. Nowhere does it say in Bill 101 that you are not allowed to serve, be served, learn, work or live in English. The point of Bill 101 is to simply ensure that people who want to live, learn, work and shop in French can do so. I couldn’t possibly be so intentionally ignorant as some detractors of Bill 101 in this discussion.

    While some anglos find it ridiculous that francos feel their language is threatened in their own province, those same anglos pretend to be fighting to save English in a francophone province. Talk about double standards!

    Are your skulls really that fucking thick?

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 10:54 pm

  16. Sorry, maybe my post was not clear enough. I wasn’t talking about public schools–I was talking about a single publicly funded school system, (not two as we currently have in Québec). If there were a single school system with a program in only one language, I doubt that language would be French in Ontario, Manitoba or Saskatchewan. I would therefore find it ridiculous if there were a single school system in Québec teaching a program in English.

    This is what I meant to say.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 22, 2009 at 10:58 pm

  17. That Dutch speakers are ~15 percent of the population of Brussels does not mean that the Flemish nationalists are happy with the language situation there, nor does it mean that they intend to stop doing something about it.

    One example may be found at this link: http://www.vlaamsbelang.org/58/43/ (in French)

    The VB intends to include Brussels in their projected Flemish state, although they seem to be coy about their plans for the French language there if that state comes into existence.

    littlerob

    August 23, 2009 at 6:37 am

  18. Sorry honey, but I already have refrained from discussing anything with Jean. If calling someone a mean name upsets you that much, you should probably be directing your criticism at Jean himself, who drops ethnic slurs into every other post.

    RoryBellows

    August 23, 2009 at 8:04 am

  19. I don’t know if that is directed at me, but I think you will find that in this discussion, I am the only one who has argued FOR the protection of French.

    RoryBellows

    August 23, 2009 at 8:07 am

  20. There are entirely French public schools throughout Canada, Quebec is NOT an exception.

    Ine

    August 23, 2009 at 8:19 am

  21. These schools were not a protected right until the adption of the Charter of Human Rights in 1981. For Canada’s first 114 years, Québec’s anglos schools pretty much were the only minority schools allowed any protection.

    angryfrenchguy

    August 23, 2009 at 9:27 am

  22. I agree and particularly take offense to his frequent use of the “N”, but I guess that is open according to some on this blog!
    It’s disgusting racism is what it is!

    Ine

    August 23, 2009 at 9:36 am

  23. This post of yours only confirms what I was saying. As for Jean, while I don’t agree with everything he says, his posts usually do contain arguments, not just name-calling, as yours above. When you stoop lower than the person you accuse of stooping too low just to prove that the other is stooping too low, you are only proving how low you can stoop.

    By the way, you can call me honey when you know me. And even then, only if you have reason to (which I doubt will ever happen). Until then, it’s AngryFrenchGirl for you.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm

  24. Read my post again–I wasn’t talking about French schools. I was talking about a single school SYSTEM. If there was only one school system in Quebec (as opposed to the dual English/French or Catholic/Protestant system we currently have), I would find it rather strange for its language to be English. No Canadian province would allow for a single all-emcompassing provincial school system to function in French, so why should Québec allow for their own school system to use English?

    AngryFrenchGirl

    August 23, 2009 at 2:07 pm

  25. Le terroriste du 11 septembre, Al Rauf Al-Jiddi, a obtenu sa citoyenneté canadienne… en octobre 1995 ! Comme au moins 14 000 autres immigrants, du processus de naturalisation accéléré. L’état canadien, sous les instructions du gouvernement libéral, s’est volontairement transformé en passoire en 1995 dans le but de grossir le nombre de votes pour le NON.

    Pendant que Jean Charest brandissait son passeport canadien devant les 100 000 personnes du love-in, à cinq minutes de marche, au complexe Guy-Favreau, à Montréal, la fabrique de citoyens instantanés avait fonctionné à plein régime, contournant les règles et procédures et faisant passer de neuf mois à quelques jours, les délais de vérification habituels.

    Au complexe Guy Favreau on naturalisait par tranche de 150 personnes à la fois. Toutes ensemble, elles jurent leur allégeance à la reine Élisabeth II en levant leur bras droit. Après le serment, ils chantent le Ô Canada et un monsieur se promène en disant : « Maintenant que vous êtes citoyens du Canada, vous savez pour qui voter ».

    La direction de l’opération se faisait à partir d’Ottawa. Les fonctionnaires faisaient des heures supplémentaires, travaillant même la fin de semaine pour naturaliser un maximum de citoyens. Pendant le seul mois précédant le 20 octobre, le Canada a naturalisé 11 500 personnes au Québec. En tout 42 375 personnes ont obtenu le droit de vote prématurément.

    6. Des électeurs hors Québec, amenez-en !

    Le parti libéral a été chercher 15 000 électeurs hors Québec. Ils ont payé pour l’impression de 50 000 lettres. Pour ne pas violer les lois québécoises, ils les ont expédiées à partir d’Ottawa.

    Dans cette opération, l’État canadien et ses ramifications ont violé, par leurs interventions, le droit international des nations de disposer d’elles-mêmes. Ce droit figure dans les premiers articles des grandes chartes internationales adoptée par l’ONU. Ils ont aussi violé la loi québécoise sur la consultation populaire sur les dépenses permises.

    7. Le référendum volé selon John Smith, Beaconsfield, Canada

    La RAMQ (régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec) a déterminé qu’il y avait 300 000 électeurs sur la liste électorale qui n’étaient pas inscrits à l’assurance maladie. Ils ont envoyé des lettres pour vérifier et 50 000 sont demeurés sans correspondance. Une partie importante était de faux électeurs avec des noms et adresses fictifs, ce qui permettait à des gens de voter plus d’une fois. Étrangement, il y a eu une augmentation de 16% du nombre de noms sur la liste électorale de la circonscription de Westmount en 1995.

    http://www.vigile.net/Le-referendum-vole-resume-par

    James

    August 23, 2009 at 7:39 pm

  26. 1. I always had difficulty understanding this: if Francophones in Quebec are the majority, why do we need the language laws? You’re either the majority and don’t need such laws, or you’re not the majority and need them. Either or, not both.

    We are colonized by (english) Canada. Immigrants are told that they are in an english country, and they do not learn french, dismissing french as being unimportant.
    (This is a sanitized text that can fit the situation both 40 years ago and right now).

    2. How do you understand the “right to be served in French”? Beyond punishing the business economically (not shopping where there is no service in French), what else can you do?

    Punishing by not shopping won’t work, because it won’t be universally applied, and the effect would be unequal. There are plenty of french sheeple who still accept not being served in french, and immigrants and rhodesians who could not care less about french.

    Have the OLF raid businesses and fine those that greet them with “bonjour/hello” or “hello”, rather than “bonjour”? I think even you know that this would be crossing the line.

    Crossing which line? The kind of line that makes a regulation that prohibits false advertising or selling rotten food?
    Let’s not forget that we are targetting BUSINESSES, not invididuh-als. Businesses are **NOT** human, and therefore cannot enjoy human rights.

    Jean Naimard

    August 23, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  27. I was asking if you would, if such a situation existed (all business in Montreal was done in French) favour forcing the anglo merchants of Kirkland to open up shops on St. Denis?

    You appear to think that Kirkland is magically different than St-Denis street.
    They’re not.
    They’re both in Montréal* and in Québec, where the majority **IS** french.
    * The de-mergers never happenned.

    Would you argue, as you are on the school subject, that francophone customers needn’t and won’t worry about a decline in french service?

    No, they need to worry as french gets harder to get in stores.

    Jean Naimard

    August 23, 2009 at 9:10 pm

  28. Irrelevant. Back then, as the official governments were outright hostile to the french fact, the scatholic church served the purpose of some kind of parallel government (within legality) in the respect of providing hospital and school services. Eventually the people grew weary of the scatholic church and all the strings it attached everywhere, so they voted to shift all those functions to the State.

    Jean Naimard

    August 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

  29. Mmmmm. Boogers.
    Oh, BOOGEY!
    Never mind…

    Jean Naimard

    August 23, 2009 at 9:17 pm

  30. Bollocks. The french are not “naturally” scatholic. Throughout the ages, the scatholic church had to use extreme measures to “keep” the faith; that is, preventing the population from stopping to believe.
    The violence wrought about the scatholic church during the french revolution is a good indicator at how an institution that can be so hated and despised is simply not natural to the people.

    Jean Naimard

    August 23, 2009 at 9:23 pm


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