We are paying the price for 25 years of apathy

On Saturday, thousands of English-speaking and allophone Quebecers demonstrated in the streets of Montreal. A rare event. Objective: to denounce the Legault government’s bill 96 aimed at “modernizing” law 101.

More militant Anglophone leaders, including the Quebec Community Groups Network, see it as a direct threat to the survival of the Anglophone community. Their apocalyptic vision automatically discredits them.

The fact remains that even more moderate English speakers have fears. In short, when it comes to Bill 101, the classic dynamic of two irreconcilable solitudes resurfaces. The reason ?

Better protection of French – which is increasingly a minority in the country – necessarily requires coercive measures which, we do not get out of it, must seek to attenuate the immense force of attraction of English among newcomers and, moreover, in addition to young francophones.

There is no question of denying the virtues of individual multilingualism, but of trying to limit so-called institutional bilingualism. Because it presents Quebec as a bilingual state in its operation, it tends to marginalize French.

Will Bill 96 manage to turn the tide without extending Bill 101 to CEGEPs, while persuading Anglophones not to fear for their survival as part of Quebec? Huge question.

Already late

Basically, the problem is brutal. In the greater metropolitan area and in the Outaouais, it is already very late. However, no one dares to ask the real question: how did we get here? It is important to understand this.

If the decline of French is accelerating so much, it is no longer because of the anti-Law 101 blocking of the Anglo-Quebec leaders of the 1970s and 1980s and their multiple successful challenges before the courts.

Over the past 25 years, the first responsible for it have been the governments of Quebec, red or blue. The second was the apathy of many Francophones.

As early as 1996, the first indicators nevertheless lit yellow lights. I know it. I was the director of the first comprehensive report on the situation of the French language since the adoption of Bill 101 in 1977. In the summer of 1995, the Prime Minister, Jacques Parizeau, requested it.

Carelessness and apathy

Declines in French, sometimes emerging, sometimes already pronounced, were documented. In the display language. Reception in shops. At work. In public services. In the growing number of francophones and allophones who, at CEGEP and university, were switching to English. Etc.

The Bouchard government and the French-speaking media had nevertheless deemed this assessment too “alarmist”. Since then, swearing that all was well, the majority governments have done nothing to rectify the situation. The same tendencies are therefore accentuated.

Hence Bill 96, however perfectible it may be, and hence the growing anger among militant or moderate Anglophones. They too were told that everything was fine. So why, they say, does François Legault want to legislate?

Could it be because he “hates” Anglophones, many wonder. At the other end of the spectrum, renowned experts, including mathematician Charles Castonguay, accuse him of not strengthening Bill 101 enough.

It was all very predictable. Like what, a quarter of a century of carelessness and apathy will have had its price. Don’t we say that everything that lies around gets dirty?

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We are paying the price for 25 years of apathy

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