Anglo privilege

The CAQ government is accused of dividing the population with its Bill 96, but some English-speaking leaders are themselves doing an excellent job.

Posted May 17

The Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN) accused François Legault in February of having found the “perfect formula” to “eradicate” the English-speaking community. Its chairwoman Marlene Jennings linked the protection of French to Russian aggression in Ukraine – she found it ironic that the prime minister criticized Vladimir Putin while promising to strengthen Law 101.

The new Parti canadien du Québec, founded by disappointed Liberals, wants to undo Bill 101 by restoring free choice in education. He wants to abolish the notwithstanding clause and make Quebec a bilingual province like New Brunswick.

And finally, Balarama Holness, a neophyte and marginal politician who enjoys astonishing media coverage, promised in the last municipal elections to eliminate the French status of Montreal. He is now launching a provincial party. In a promotional video, we see a sign from the demonstration on Saturday where Bill 96 is described as “fascist”.

The escalation was fast…

Barely a year ago, the debate was different. The importance of protecting the French brought together unlikely allies.

In Ottawa, the Trudeau government tabled a bill that recognized that French is vulnerable and requires special protection.

In Quebec, the Liberals (PLQ) tabled a plan of 27 measures that touched on justice, work, higher education, the francization of immigrants and the state’s duty to set an example when communicating with citizens. .

And all the living former premiers of Quebec demanded that Bill 101 apply to businesses and institutions under federal jurisdiction.

When Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette tabled his bill in May 2021, he took advantage of this momentum. This movement continued during the study. At the end of February, the PLQ even suggested imposing three compulsory courses in French in English-speaking CEGEPs.

The discontent came late, but it was lively. In early spring, the Liberals asked to withdraw their own amendment. A compromise has been found: Anglophone students will have three courses in “French as a second language”, while allophones and Francophones will receive three courses in French – for example, psychology in the language of Ferland.

This is one of the proposals that outraged the demonstrators on Saturday.

It is not without irony.

In 2019, Liberal Greg Kelley tabled a private bill to provide free French lessons. The West Island deputy said he had to take French courses at university. An admission that the English-speaking network was doing this job badly.

Admittedly, the CAQ-liberal measure seems improvised. That would make five French lessons in four sessions. And CEGEP is not necessarily the best place to act. Perhaps it would be preferable to improve secondary education instead.

But is it so insulting to offer a Cegep student to learn to get by in the official language of Quebec? By offering a level 1 beginner’s course if necessary?

We don’t see many English-speaking parents fighting for their child to receive more French lessons. However, the opposite is happening: Francophones and allophones insist on studying at CEGEP in English.

English is the language of commerce, technology and entertainment. Its power of attraction is immense.

Dawson is now the busiest and most prestigious CEGEP. Allophones and Francophones are in the majority there and they will then tend to attend university in English.

McGill and Concordia benefit. Since 2018, these establishments have also been enriched thanks to the new funding formula which allows them to keep the income of their foreign students. Francophone universities suffer from this competition. For example, they don’t have as much money to attract star researchers.

Anglophones thus enjoy stronger institutions than their demographic weight justifies, and their language will never be threatened. There is an unknowing Anglo privilege.

The Caquistes have not restored equalization between universities or extended Bill 101 to CEGEPs. They opted for a compromise: cap the number of francophone and allophone students. It displeases almost everyone at the same time.

It is difficult to assess the impact of this measure on French. But on the level of principles, the debate is simpler. Quebec pays to educate part of its elite in English. It transforms the individual preference for English into a collective obligation. Meanwhile, French-speaking CEGEPs are losing students and teachers are short of work. It is not normal.

That said, the caquists deserve some of the protesters’ anger.

No measure taken in isolation will have a major effect on French. The reform of Bill 101 therefore relies on the addition of small gestures. She casts a wide net. And it was written ignoring the warnings of many experts.

The result: inhumanity and administrative picking. Asylum seekers are forced to learn French in just six months. We are interfering in the management of the courts. It threatens to create cumbersome bureaucracy and red tape for small businesses. And we do not accommodate the First Nations for whom French is a third language.

The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) is happy to be criticized by both the Parti Québécois and the Liberal Party. She seems to have found her balance. But that betrays above all his sometimes messy work.

Despite its flaws, the bill meets a need: to protect French.

In the fall of 2020, the National Assembly adopted a unanimous motion to recognize that “the cohesion of the Quebec nation depends above all on the vitality of our common language”. She had even been supported by Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard.

The legitimacy of this historic cause is now in question. In the eyes of some Anglophone leaders, this would be a form of intolerance. Undemocratic “ethno-nationalism”, according to the director of public affairs of the QCGN.

Note the double standard. If an allophone integrates into English, it is diversity. Whereas if he has to do it in French, it’s intolerance. And radio silence on the fact that the CAQ will pay newcomers better to encourage them to take francization courses.

Despite its criticisms, Québec solidaire plans to vote in favor of the law. Would he also be made an ethnicist?

Yvon Deschamps joked that Quebecers want “a strong Quebec in a united Canada”. A new trend is now emerging: those who say they want a French Quebec, but in a bilingual province.

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Anglo privilege

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