Bill 96 | Splitting without benefit or advantage

Decidedly, the cleavage is in tune with the times and is constantly attracting more and more followers.

Posted at 1:00 p.m.

Rather than making efforts to understand complex situations and issues, while keeping an open mind, our penchant for ease and simplification takes over, even if it means flouting the rights of several segments of the Quebec population. and keep in place very rigid blinders that prevent us from fully taking stock of the facts. Bill 96 is an example of such initiatives that fuel such division, and it runs the risk of running counter to the intended goals.

The mantra constantly repeated by Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, regardless of the points of view and the arguments of the opponents of this bill, is that French is in decline in Quebec.

This mantra is so well anchored in our collective unconscious that any attempt to question it is taxed with jovialism or heresy.

French is and always will be a fragile language in Canada and North America. It will always require vigilance on our part in order to protect, enhance and promote it. But associating the decline in the demographic weight of the population whose mother tongue is French or who speak French most often at home to the decline of French is not only a matter of ethnicity, but also of a very selective, not to say partial, interpretation. , the evolution of linguistic behavior in Quebec and Montreal in particular.

Contrary to popular belief, the Charter of the French language was never intended to influence linguistic behavior in the private space. However, what constantly makes many analysts and the Minister responsible for the Charter say that “French is in decline” is largely based on a simplistic reading of behavior in the private sphere and blindness voluntary in the face of the many more nuanced and positive results concerning the evolution of the situation of French in the Quebec public sphere, the very one targeted by the Charter. This is what emerged clearly from the symposium of the Demographic and Statistical Observatory of the French-speaking world which was held in Quebec City on May 10 and 11 and which was entitled “What indicators and for what purposes? – Interdisciplinary perspective on the “measurement” of the evolution of the linguistic situation and the use of French in Quebec” 1.

Influenced by alarmist and catastrophist remarks, reports and writings on the situation of French in Quebec, public discourse on the language has been constructed in such a way as to fuel concern among the population to the point of no longer being able to question what is first and foremost the result of a methodological bias.

Faced with the cleavage and divisions created by Bill 96 and knowing the need to strengthen the vitality of French within Quebec society as a whole, we should rather, to use the apt words of Rachida Azdouz, go from ‘“a rhetoric of injunction and prohibition to a rhetoric of invitation and proposal”.

It seems more and more obvious that the perpetuation of the French fact in Quebec will only be possible through close collaboration with the English-speaking communities and not against them. Linguistic living together cannot be harmonious in the future if bridges are not built between the French- and English-speaking communities and if the important contributions of the latter to cultural, social, intellectual and economic interests of Quebec society as a whole.

Although there is only one official language in Quebec, English is neither a foreign language nor a threat to our Quebec identity in flux, in inter-influence, increasingly multilingual, diversified and with multiple outlines.

In return, the English-speaking community must actively contribute to a better integration of its members within French-speaking Quebec society while recognizing their right to develop a diversity of relationships with the only official language of the province. It must also recognize that the significant unilingualism of its members (34% or 372,000 people at the 2016 census) undoubtedly fuels the fears of a large section of the French-speaking population about the future of French in Montreal. In the current context, it is more than necessary to consider measures that protect the interests of the French-speaking majority, but also protect those of the English-speaking minority defined according to inclusive criteria recognized by this community itself. , not according to a rigid, static and archaic conception.

The increase in the presence and influence of French in Quebec since the adoption of the Charter of the French language in 1977 has not been based on the postulate of a weakening of the power of attraction of English . And to borrow the words of historian Jocelyn Létourneau, “the exclusivity of a single language used in the metropolis is utopian, today as yesterday”.

When will the general assembly be held on real dialogue and cooperation with English-speaking communities to ensure the sustainability of French in Quebec while recognizing the legitimate existence of English? The future of linguistic living together will depend on it.

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Bill 96 | Splitting without benefit or advantage


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