Canada's language wars are over -

Canada’s language wars are over

After 50 fraught years of fights, including a constitutional battle or three, French Canada has won

Tongue-tied no longer

Francis Vachon/CP

Language issues, so the cliché goes, are rarely far below the surface in Quebec, and it was just 11 hot days into last summer’s election campaign that the Parti Québécois got out the shovel. In the outgoing Liberal government, the sovereignist party had no shortage of ready-made targets. Not only was Jean Charest’s government uninspiring and unpopular, it was mired in corruption scandals.

Yet the PQ instead launched a quasi-nativist campaign focusing heavily on matters of the tongue. Charest’s government, PQ Leader Pauline Marois said, “has abandoned the defence of the francophone majority’s rights because it didn’t have the courage to enforce Bill 101.” The solution, as she thundered in a stump speech on Aug. 12, was nothing short of a radical reform of the province’s language laws, which Marois promised in the first 100 days of a PQ government.

Bill 14 contained a raft of new measures further restricting access to English services and schools—including a stipulation forbidding francophone students from attending English CEGEPs, Quebec’s network of junior colleges. “The French language is Quebecers’ most precious gift. It’s what makes us distinct in North America,” the premier-to-be said, as a gaggle of Péquiste MNAs nodded somberly around her. “We must be vigilant.”

If the PQ hoped to harvest political capital from its familiar linguistic sabre-rattling, it was sadly disappointed. Marois was unable to gain a majority government, despite having as an opponent one of the least popular outgoing premiers in recent history.

And while much of Quebec’s English minority has been predictably frothy in its opposition to Bill 14, the PQ’s fleur-de-lys-draped efforts to rally the francophone majority around the French language once again has been met largely with indifference from francophones themselves.

According to the CROP polling firm, the PQ has dropped 11 percentage points since Bill 14’s introduction in December. In yet another rarity in Quebec politics, the most recent CROP poll has the PQ in a dead heat with the Liberal party among francophone voters. It’s as clear an indication as any: Language battles, which have dominated so much of Quebec’s recent history, are becoming more and more passé.

English is hardly the threat it once was. Nearly 85 per cent of Quebecers believe it is important to be bilingual. “The survival of French isn’t a preoccupation anymore,” says Hélène Dauphinais, a 48-year-old CEGEP economics professor and mother of two college-aged kids. The PQ, she notes, quickly did away with its idea of preventing French students from attending English CEGEPs, largely as a result of pressure from francophone parents such as herself. “If they’d done that, I would have taken to the streets,” she says.

As members of the only French-speaking society in North America, Quebecers will always be somewhat worried about the future of French. Yet in pushing forward with Bill 14, along with months of pro-independence chest-thumping by the Marois government, the Parti Québécois seems to have found the limits of this concern—much to the disappointment of sovereignists themselves.

“Quebecers want to live their life, they don’t want to fight,” laments former PQ cabinet minister Jean Garon. “We hardly even speak about the battle anymore.”

If Garon is right, it raises the question: Why are Quebecers suddenly so apathetic about language issues? One reason may be the simple fact that Bill 101, Quebec’s landmark law enshrining French as the language of society and commerce, has worked like blazes in ensuring the primacy of French within Quebec’s borders.

And as former Péquiste cabinet minister and Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard notes, Canada’s Official Languages Act, which brought coast-to-coast bilingualism to Canada nearly 45 years ago, has essentially deflated the nationalist argument that French is in danger of disappearing.

“Official bilingualism played a very important role in national unity,” says Ménard, who retired from politics in 2011. “We thought for a long time that French Canadians suffered injustices. Official bilingualism brought forward the idea that Canada was a francophone country and that francophones had a role to play.”

It also has an unlikely ally in Stephen Harper, a former staunch critic of official bilingualism who, as Prime Minister, has overseen one of the largest increases to language-duality funding in the last 40 years. In 2001, Harper likened official bilingualism to “the god that failed”; today, he is more likely to channel Pierre Trudeau, the former Liberal prime minister who created the Official Languages Act. “As Canadians, we are very proud of the coexistence of our two national languages,” Harper wrote this year.

By creating an environment in which French is protected (if not spoken from sea to sea), official bilingualism has both bolstered the French fact in Canada, and apparently made francophones in Quebec more comfortable and secure. In short, after 50 often-fraught years of tussles, fits of pique and ennui—not to mention a constitutional battle or three—you might say Canada’s language battles are over. And the winner, judging by the progress and gains made over nearly a half-century, is clear: French Canada, by a long shot.

The Town of Mount Royal (TMR) is a swanky redoubt in the northern part of Montreal. A place of proper flowerbeds and expansive bungalows, “the Town,” as locals call it, was a suburb of Montreal before the city expanded around and beyond it in the 1950s. It was wealthy and almost exclusively English—Reginald J. P. Dawson, its longest-serving mayor, barely spoke a word of French. Only Westmount, that old-money burgh to TMR’s south, is a bigger source of so many hoary “rich anglophone” stereotypes.

Dawson served as mayor of TMR until 1987 and died in 1991. He’d hardly recognize the place, were he alive today. There are bilingual signs, for one, since the Town is now 45 per cent French. There is also a 44-year-old fellow named Philippe Roy sitting in his old chair, the first francophone mayor in the TMR’s history. And Roy is fuming mad about the PQ’s plans to effectively take the English language out of the Town.

Part of Bill 14 would remove the so-called bilingual status of 89 boroughs and municipalities in Quebec whose English population has dipped below 50 per cent, meaning a government-enforced end to bilingual correspondence, billing and signage within these communities. The measure, according to PQ Minister Diane De Courcy, was to stave off what she called “institutional bilingualism.”

Roy wants nothing of it. “There are hardliners who will always say that the fight isn’t over, that French is in danger, but I don’t see it,” Roy says. “There’s a self-assurance in Quebec now. We know that French isn’t threatened, and we can move onto other things.” He isn’t alone in his opposition to Bill 14. At least a third of the mayors who signed resolutions condemning the measure are francophone.

The vast majority of Quebecers want some sort of protection for the French language, yet they cringe (along with everyone else) when the excesses of this protection become the object of international ridicule. In a letter sent earlier this year, the Office québécois de la langue française ordered the owner of a Montreal-area Italian restaurant to remove several non-French words, including “pasta,” from his menu. “Pastagate,” as the controversy was quickly dubbed, was the Kafkaesque volley heard around the world—the bureaucratic equivalent of PQ Education Minister Marie Malavoy’s utterance last year that English was a “foreign language.”

About 150 km southeast of Montreal, in the wooded suburban outskirts of Sherbrooke, comes a familiar refrain against this sort of thing. Dauphinais, the CEGEP professor, has seen first-hand the effects of language laws on francophone students. (Under Bill 101, the children of francophone and immigrant parents must attend elementary and secondary school in French.)

She notes how it has resulted in generations of kids who can’t properly speak or functionally write in English by the time they finish high school. And though the PQ has backed off its proposal barring French students from English CEGEPs, it has instead suggested a quota system by which English students would have priority over French students at Quebec’s six English-language CEGEPs—even if a French student happens to have better marks. Bill 14 would also compel toddlers to attend French daycare. (Maclean’s made several attempts to speak with PQ Language Minister De Courcy, to no avail.)

“We are hurting our youth,” Dauphinais says. “We have people who get into the M.B.A. program at the Université de Sherbrooke who aren’t bilingual. They are supposed to be the crème de la crème of our managers and executives, and they can’t even speak English when they get to university.”

It’s a telling statement. In Quebec, English was long seen as the oppressor’s language—the tool of what former premier René Lévesque once called Quebec’s “white Rhodesians.” In 2013, the language of Shakespeare is now the language of globalization and business; it’s necessary, but has not been seen as a threat, since Bill 101 has kept English sufficiently in check (even too much, as Dauphinais suggests) to placate most Quebecers. And French is even more necessary in contemporary Quebec. “Today, if you’re English and you don’t speak French in Quebec, you’re going to pay the price,” says Frédéric Bastien, a history professor at the English-language Dawson CEGEP. “That wasn’t always the case.”

It certainly wasn’t. Across the country, francophones historically earned less than their English counterparts; they sometimes considered themselves, as the hyperbolized title of Pierre Vallières’ 1968 oeuvre suggested, the White Niggers of America.

The opposite is true today. According to a 2012 study by the Ottawa-based business group RGA, “Francophones have a lower unemployment rate and higher average salaries in their respective provinces.”

In Quebec, according to a 2010 Statistics Canada study, the income gap between English and French Quebecers aged 25 to 44 “is practically non-existent,” while a larger proportion of English Quebecers live under the poverty line than their French brethren. Even stately old Westmount can’t rely on old clichés: According to the 2006 census, the median income of French Wesmounters is nearly 25 per cent higher than their English neighbours.

Francophones benefited not only from the French-only precepts of Bill 101, but the Canada-wide, French-as-well measures in the Official Languages Act, as well. Shortly before the Liberal government enacted the Official Languages Act in 1969, the Calgary Herald heaped scorn on the policy, saying the federal civil service would be run by “a small cohort of bilingual technocrats” as a result.

Disdainful as it may have been, the prediction was quite close to the truth. Nearly 60 per cent of Canada’s 197,000 federal civil servants hail from Quebec and Ontario, according to Treasury Board statistics. The majority of the positions are bilingual—a particular boon for Ontario francophones, who “are per capita, more prosperous than anglophones,” says the commissioner of official languages, Graham Fraser. The Calgary Herald was incorrect only on one point: The cohort of bilingual technocrats wasn’t particularly small.

What English Canadians have received in return, beyond a taste of worldliness afforded by Canada’s réalité francophone, is relative linguistic peace. Put simply, and much to the chagrin of Quebec nationalists, Quebecers are gaga for official bilingualism: 94 per cent favour the policy, according to the 2012 Environics poll.

And while it hasn’t quite met the federal government’s own lofty 2003 goal of having 50 per cent of 15- to-19-year-olds bilingual by 2013 (the figure stands at roughly 23 per cent), official bilingualism has at least endeared itself to a large swath of English Canadians. While they may not speak the “other” language, English Canadians are at least charmed by the idea that they (or at least their children) could do so relatively easily, thanks to the burgeoning system of French-immersion schools.

Many are doing just that, according to a Statistics Canada report released this week. Since 1961, “the number of bilingual people has never stopped growing,” it reads. “This increase in the number of bilingual people over the last 50 years . . . corresponds to a growth rate of close to 160 per cent.”

“Despite its mixed history, public support for the concept of bilingualism is now at an all-time high,” reads the Environics poll report, which notes how nearly 65 per cent of Canadians support Pierre Trudeau’s model of coast-to-coast bilingualism. British Columbia is a new-found bilingual convert. Support for official bilingualism there increased by 15 percentage points, to 60 per cent, between 2010 and 2012.

The relative success of the Official Languages Act masks an important point: that the goal of the policy was never, as one overheated group of Albertans declared in 1968, to have French “shoved down their throats.” Instead, as Fraser told Maclean’s last October, the Act “guaranteed the right of the people to remain unilingual . . . so that individuals don’t have to learn the other official language to deal with the federal government.”

It also served the very important role of defusing the threatening noises emanating from Quebec. In 1963, nationalism was on the rise in the province, with murmurs of a full-blown separatist movement that would culminate, in 1968, with the formation of the Parti Québécois. In a uniquely Canadian fit of panic, prime minister Lester B. Pearson called a royal commission to study the issue, and the resulting report was the basis for the Official Languages Act.

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was a voluminous and, at times, painfully earnest examination of Canada’s language travails throughout the country’s history. It heard from hundreds of Canadian individuals and organizations.There were soft-focus reports from the anglo-Montreal enclave of Pointe-Claire, where “bicultural soirées” brought French and English people together for dinner and, presumably, awkward questions.

There were bilingual picnics atop Mont Royal, meetings between blue-haired anglophones and fiery young nationalists. There were cross-cultural student weekends between Toronto and Montreal. “It was huge,” says Ménard, who took part in one of these weekends. “There was an interest, even a discovery, of French in Canada. It showed that English Canada was open to the reality of the French fact.”

There was also anger and suspicion. “I have concluded that [Quebecers] would not be satisfied until they have at least acquired complete control of Quebec, and would then continue to expand furthur [sic],” wrote one John Bowen from Toronto in a letter to the commission in 1964. “I see no evidence of a gradual merging of the Québécois into the general group.”

Today’s bilingual, bicultural reality lies somewhere between the earnestness of the Pointe-Claire soirées and Bowen’s Upper Canadian scorn. Save for maybe poutine and famous Las Vegas transplants Cirque du Soleil and Céline Dion, English Canadians haven’t exactly embraced French culture. The reverse is also true: Rick Mercer, Erin Karpluk and George Stroumboulopoulos could probably stroll down Montreal’s rue Ste-Catherine est together and few people would notice until they tried to order lunch.

Yet Quebecers have hardly stayed put. Since 1961, Quebec has had a net migration to the other Canadian provinces, chiefly Ontario and Alberta—which are today home to three officially bilingual municipalities. One could argue that Quebecers do so because more and more of them can speak English: 2011 marked the first time that the number of bilingual 15- to 19-year-old Quebecers breached the 50 per cent mark, according to the 2011 census.

Outside of Quebec, official bilingualism has chugged along steadily. In 1971, there were about 1.3 million bilingual people outside of Quebec. In 2006, that number stood at just under 2.5 million. The francophone population outside of Quebec has also grown—though not nearly fast enough to keep up with the influx of some 250,000 immigrants every year, the majority of whom don’t speak French. Still, the language is hardly dying, as many predicted it would. If anything, Canada’s policy of official bilingualism has allowed French to grow modestly outside of Quebec and, coupled with Bill 101, flourish wildly within it.

Along the way, Canada’s policy of official bilingualism has converted notable non-believers. Apart from beginning all his speeches in his very passable French, Harper adopted and renewed his initiative to fund bilingual education, cultural and immigration programs across the country, to the tune of $1.1 billion over five years. “In 2006, the Harper government studied the [Liberal] plan carefully, and then it put its own stamp on it,” Fraser told Maclean’s recently.

Meanwhile, Bill 14, the Parti Québécois’ proud initiative to revive the language shibboleth, is currently stuck in the legislative swamp of Quebec’s national assembly—more than anything a victim of Quebecers’ indifference.

Linguistically, it seems, Quebecers appear at ease. Canada’s policy of official bilingualism has never been more popular across the country. In 50 years, the French language has gone from economic albatross to political flashpoint to something banal and accepted—even celebrated. The battle, you might say, has been won. Vive le Canada français.


Canada’s language wars are over

  1. Okay, why this? Why now? Who’s worried? Something is clearly in the wind in Ottawa for this officious bilingualism paean to appear.

    • Yeah, better watch out! They’re still coming to get you.

      • Who’s coming to get me? Why? What do you know?

    • Care to speculate?

      • Speculation?

        Four to seven days from now, something about bilingualism funding erupts in the FSM.

        This is a ‘crafted’ (well-crafted, kudos to M. Patriquin) proxy piece/bow shot from inside the federal bureaucracy (or a vulnerable wing of it), not something dashed off to meet the 800-word sword under which most journolisters labour. It suggests a preemptive media sally. Ducks being lined up, etc. Money and ideology is in play, to put it another way. Large money.

        Is some department about to pay for another department’s misdeeds? Or is extra lucre bruited to be carved from the Official Languages boondoggle? (There is a Tory deficit pledge to consider, and 2015 looms ever larger. Maybe not everyone behind the institutional curtain is convinced the Liberals are destined to triumph…in which case, budget firewalls need to be erected. National unity is and was secured by Off/Bil…don’t touch the program responsible for all our joy, etc.)

        I suspect the ultimate subtext message is that Harper is keen to burn something now. Bilingualism officials fear their vast org. might get badly singed.Time to fire torpedoes while you still can.

        You asked for speculations, you got them.

        • House of Cards. How exciting!

          • From possible to likely, your reference, though a little grubbier play than the fictional version.

    • Read the article: Bill 14 — it just passed second reading in Quebec’s National Assembly.
      And despite all the sabre-rattling, most Quebecers are barely aware it exists,and if they do, they think it’s a horrible idea.

      • Exactly. So we need our cunning lingualists to gird their loins and defend again all the extraordinary cultural gains we’ve…accrued thanks to this jobs policy. A boost in next year’s budget would really help the Official Languages team sell the official federal position in Quebec. So when you give, give generously, dear taxpayer.

  2. Hey Martin, last I checked ON and QC had 63% of the population so in fact the 2 provinces are underrepresented (marginally) in the fed civil service. Other than that good article.

    • Especially when you consider that civil service/bureaucracy jobs tend to be concentrated in the national capital region. Not saying that civil service jobs should not be spread out across the country, just that I was also surprised that the ON/QC percentage was as low as it was.

      • Although the stats might be off. I understand there are people working in Ottawa who claim to be from PEI but actually are local.

  3. While it is true that the Official Languages Act has played an important rôle in making the federal government and civil service reflect the bilingual nature of the country, the sea change in terms of francophone communities outside of Québec happened in 1982 and after, because of the Charter.
    What section 23 of the Charter gave to francophones in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories of Yukon, NWT and Nunavut, is the right not only for their children to attend a francophone school, but the right of francophone parents to govern these schools. That in my opinion is the real reason that there are vital francophone communities outside of Québec.
    Programs related to the Official Languages Act have contributed financially to the success of French immersion programs, a program for the Anglophone children wanting to learn French.
    The presence of francophone schools and school districts present in all provinces and territories of Canada might also make Québec francophone outmigration a little less daunting, allowing the young workers with families that, if nothing else, the kids can go to a francophone school.

    • Section 23 is definitely important, though I wonder how many Canadians are aware that its most important provisions do not apply in Quebec. As it stands, francophones across Canada are guaranteed a right to send their children to French language schools under the mother tongue provision, but anglophones in Quebec are only allowed to send their children to English language schools if they themselves attended English schools *in Canada.* It might seem a minor point for most Canadians, who easily meet the criteria, but it is particularly brutal on anglophone immigrants who find themselves in Quebec—in my case, from the United States, but it applies the same whether one is from England, Australia, Jamaica, South Africa, etc. Not that I begrudge francophones in the rest of Canada, just that I wish my daughter had the same rights that they have.

      • You should begrudge. It’s evil, especially since francophones in other provinces have the right not merely to be educated in French, but in schools from which anyone else wishing to be educated in French is banned.

        • Yeah, but I see that as distinct from the situation of a native anglophone wanting to send his daughter (also a native anglophone) to the perfectly good English school down the street, but being told that, no, that’s illegal because he and his wife was educated in English in the United States rather than in Canada (despite the fact that he holds a graduate degree from a Canadian university).

          On the other hand, I can see perfectly valid reasons why French schools in the ROC might exclude non-native francophones, most notably because the do not want to have to do the ground work to teach French as a second language to non-native speakers. That is to say, there is a difference between immersion programs designed to teach you the language quickly and regular programs that assume native fluency from day one. That said, I haven’t given this particular issue much thought, since it is quite divorced from my own situation.

          • The key Supreme Court ruling was applied to a Manitoba child who had grown up in France but whose parents were both Canadian. He spoke French as well as most of the teachers, but his parents had been educated in English in Canada (though they too were fluent in French).

            The right in question has nothing to do with language, but rather ethnicity.

            To the extent that an ethnicity might be considered a race, it is racism.

          • The right is based solely on the first language learned and still spoken by one of the parents and not the child. Manitoba francophone schools have many Franco-Manitoban students, as well as Métis, French (from France) and francophones from African and Arab countries. Also, some Franco-Manitoban schools have accepted students from the French Immersion program (a program for Anglophones by the way) whose linguistic skills were up to snuff, including the Franco-Manitoban school in my old home town. So before you accuse a collectivity of being racist on a single case of one student (which one and in which school by the way?), maybe you should wake up and see what is happening in Manitoba in the 21th century.

          • It is, as you say, a “collectivity”.

            Thus a group of people who seek a specific privilege that is NOT based on language.

            It is based on adhesion to the ethnicity.

            Thus a form of racism.

          • Maybe you prefer the word community then, a community of people who share the same mother tongue, who contribute to a common culture, a community of francophones from all the provinces and territories of Canada, as well as from Europe, Africa and various arab countries. If you see a common ethnicity there, and thus a form of racism, then I’d have someone change the lenses of the classes that makes you see racism everywhere. But hell, don’t take my work for it, go see for yourself. Oh yes, and about that racist school, got the name yet?

          • It’s a group of people, and not a question of language skills.

            Thus a form of racism.

          • Le procès était contre la division scolaire franco-manitobaine, et l’école n’a jamais était révélé au public.

          • Puisque la compétence linguistique vous semble le seul critère important, vous ne m’en voudrez pas, je l’espère, de vous signaler que le mot école est féminin, et qu’avec l’auxiliaire être le participe passé s’accorde avec le sujet. Donc il aurait fallu écrire « révélée ». Ceci dit, il aurait été plus juste de dire: le nom de l’école n’a pas été révélé… De rien. De nada. You’re welcome!

          • ll n’y a pas de quoi.

    • When you deal with government and the person you are speaking with is bilingual, you can generally assume that person has the position, not because they are the best qualified, but because they speak french.

      • Worse yet, it’s because they are of francophone ethnicity.

    • And where are the Anglophone rights in Quebec?

      • There are none.Bill 14 will take away even more rights and the lack of francophone protesters tells me most are perfectly fine with that. Given the fights and arguments I have had with them in recent years, I am not surprised. What disappoints me is the lack of support English Canada has for anglophones residents in Canada’s Most Racist Province.

    • The Official Languages Act has since 1969 also increased the operating costs to our federal, provincial and municipal governments by HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS and over forty years later in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Territories of Yukon, NWT and Nunavut there are still less than ten percent (10.%) of Canadians who are able to read, speak or understand French

  4. There are more people in Ontario that speak Greek as their sole language than speak French. And yet, an entire “shadow” of every provincial government department exists to create ads, press releases, speeches and websites to serve the handful of Francophones in Ontario.

    It’s a bit maddening, when taken in comparison, no?

    • There are more people in Ontario that speak Greek as their sole language than speak French.

      Or a Chinese dialect. Or Italian. So, what’s your point?

      • My point is that we do not create an entire mirror beaucracy to serve these small factions. It’s not a constitutional requirement, it’s legislative. It’s incredibly wasteful, because much of what is created is never accessed. And yes, i can say that fo certian, as i have produced some of these materials and wesites. Never. Accessed.

        • That is the case in every province. Stats Canada reports on profile of francophones in each province reveal that the wast majority of francophones read English newspapers, watch English TV, access government services in English, speak to their doctor in English even though the doctor is French-speaking – in short, they live in English by choice. It just makes them feel “proud” that those services are available to them, it makes them feel ‘special”. That does not make any sense to me and it’s wasteful. Better spend all those money on better medical equipment and more nurses.

          • In Ontario, MEDDLING Meilleur is the Minister In Charge of Ignroing Anglophones. How amazing a job it would be to be in charge of a multimilliondollar company where you only need to pay attention to 5% of your customers?

    • Sorry, but this is just incorrect. (I would hesitate to use “false”, because that would imply that you’re lying – I hope you’re just mistaken.) The number of people in Ontario for whom Greek is their mother tongue, per the 2011 census (this is not the “household survey”, this is the honest-to-goodness census) was 57,000. I’m going to assume that the number of people who speak it as their “sole language” is smaller than that.

      The number of people for whom French is their mother tongue was 561,000. The number of people who speak it *at all* is way higher than that. Hence, your numbers are incorrect by a factor of 10 at a minimum, and probably far more than that.

      • I apologize for my incorrect numbers, I was mistakenly looking at a chart with Toronto data. Please ignore the “Greek” reference. Substutute any of Punjabi, Spanish. Mandarin or Italian, and the point remains.
        Also, don’t add sly assertions like
        “because that would imply that you’re lying”
        as it cheapens your argument with inference, making reader cast a jaundiced eye towards your statements. I’d hate to think that reders of these comments would see you as a snarky troll.
        See how nasty that comes across?
        Now, to the numbers.
        The census actuall gives us 162,160 as the number of those who use French exclusively at home. , fewer than Spanish, Italian, Mandarin or Punjabi.
        So, we have 400,000 Franco-Ontarians who don’t actually need the French languages Service Act. Yes?

        • I wouldn’t say using a language solely in one’s home correlates perfectly with the need for governmental services in one’s language. Here in Quebec, for instance, many anglophones use French to some degree at home—they might watch French programming, intermix French words into speech, work to teach their kids French, etc.—but they still want governmental services available in English because service in a non-native language is oftentimes less than ideal (*especially* for things like health care or other areas with specialized terminology). Ask yourself if you would want services only available in French and you’d have a much better understanding of the position of Franco-Ontarians.

          Now, if the local Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Pakistani, etc. communities in Ontario are sufficiently large, that doesn’t mean that services shouldn’t be made available in French. There is nothing to stop the province or municipality from offering services in each of those languages as well.

          • Oh ya? That we have 200 government workers speaking all those languages, instead of one, manning the same workstation?

          • In practice, it wouldn’t really require hiring more people, just hiring people that are multi-lingual (hospitals are a great example of how this works out in practice—your doctor might not speak your language, but someone somewhere in the hospital does, and they can translate for you if necessary). But, that’s really beside the point, which was that the fact that the government is free to offer services in other languages if it chooses, so the fact that some communities may be comparable to or even larger than the francophone community doesn’t mean that francophones should not receive services in French.

          • I am not saying francophones should not receive services in French. They should receive same level of services as other ethnic groups. So…our doctor might not speak French, but someone somewhere in the hospital does, and they can translate for you if necessary.

        • Hi there. First – apology appreciated. Second –
          trollish-behaviour-identification received. To be honest, I had assumed,
          because your numbers seemed so out of whack with what I knew to be the
          case, that you were the one doing the trolling. I hope you can see how
          it might have looked that way. Regardless, it was still uncivil, and
          please accept my apologies.

          Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I think that there are
          incredibly-tough public policy questions to be asked about which sets of
          statistics to use (“Mother Tongue” vs. “Most-commonly used at home” vs.
          “can speak”).For example – the fourth-biggest language by mother
          tongue, in Nova Scotia, is German. However, the vast majority of those
          are people who moved to NS before, or shortly after, World War II. Their
          mother tongue is no where near as relevant as the “language spoken at
          home” today which is, for most of them, English – even when it comes to
          government services. On the other hand, there are a decent number of
          immigrant families who choose to speak English at home with their kids
          because they want to encourage their kids’ fluency. However, put them in
          a medical emergency, and the value of having a person available who can
          speak Arabic (for example, named because it’s #3 in NS) becomes

  5. I’m English speaking and I don’t want to speak French. Quebec is nothing more than a repressive regime denying the freedom of speech, violating the civil liberties of people.
    Wake up Harper.

    • Feel free then to live in any of the other 9 provinces or three territories of Canada. And rest assured, thanks to the Official Languages Act, you can talk to and receive all the services from your Federal government in English.

      • What’s all that crap about services from the government?

        It’s using whatever language you wish to in your day to day life that is important.

        • It’s called the Official Languages Act, adopted in 1969, and it ensures that one can communicate and receive services from the Federal government in the Official Language of your choice irregardless of the province or territory where you live. That, based on the article, is what this “crap” is all about. As for the language you wish to use in your day to day life, feel free to chose whatever language you know and that is understood by the person you wish to communicate with. Feel free also to use the language that is imposed on you by your work situation. Nobody ever said you couldn’t. Or did I miss something in your posts other than the fact that as a Franco-Manitoban, I am a member (in good standing by the way) of a crypto-racist community.

          • In Quebec you do not have the freedom to use language as you please.

            Which is a vital part of daily life.

            Governments rarely provide services that require any particular language, so that issue is the trivial one.

          • Completely, totally, utterly false, as any anglo who lives in Montreal could tell you.

          • Kevin, Quebec’s laws are full of restrictions on the signs you want to put on your own building or business, as well as restrictions on the language being used in businesses.

            It’s not the business of governments to tell people what language to use anyway.

          • Not ‘crypto racist’.

            That would imply it to be hidden.

            And it is easily as much the policy and law as it is the community (however defined).

            Any system that seeks to grant privileges and specific rights based on adherence to some particular group is necessarily evil.

          • Unfortunately, government has continued the process of dealing with taxpayers in either language ( I agree with that of course)but to another level. Now staff can work and be managed in the language of THEIR choice, getting away from helping the taxpayer only. There must be a more fair way so all Canadians, who only speak one or the other language can work too.

          • Ignorant/arrogant francophone…sorry for the repetition

      • You can deal with all Provincial services in English in Quebec too…

        • Maybe, but if you ask for directions from the guy in the metro booth, you’re screwed. As a tourist, it was a bit of a shock.

          • YOu could also be verbally or physically assaulted. YOU were lucky.

          • Montreal is the second largest French-Speaking city in the world… as a Canadian, that is something we should be proud of.

          • As a Canadian, I am ashamed to say I am from Kaybec where my rights are violated daily. By French-speaking “citizens”. Not pride-inducing

      • Ummm…the same problem applies to almost-as-racist New Brunswick where anglophones are denied service in, or government jobs in, their own language.
        ANd if you honestly think you can get all services from the feds in ENglish in either of these province you ware either ridiculously naive or I want to borrow whatever it is you are smoking. Kaybec is allowed to “suspend civil liberties” and violate rights of anglos with carte blanche and it has to stop.

  6. Did I misinterpret Mr. Patriquin’s article or does it contain a glaring contradiction? He
    writes that Professor Dauphinais found that language laws have “resulted in generations of (francophone) kids who can’t properly speak or functionally write
    in English by the time they finish high school.” But Mr. Patriquin also writes that 2011 census data “marked the first time that the number of bilingual 15- to 19-year-old Quebecers breached the 50 per cent mark …” Which is correct: Dauphinais’ anecdotal
    evidence or census statistics?

    Being an English-speaking reader from the U.S. who feels so uncomfortable in Quebec that I only visit infrequently to see an occasional Bishop’s U. football game, the thing that strikes me about Bill 14 is that it seems designed not so much to protect French as to alienate not only Quebec’s anglophones but all Canadians and thus provoke secessionist-causing outside interference. If Quebec’s francophones truly feel safe in their own linguistic skin, as Mr. Patriquin suggests, shouldn’t they magnanimously protect the anglophone minority from the same indignities that francophones once complained about? It appears the federal government is silent about Bill 14. If so, is it silent in the belief that it’s better to allow Quebec to abuse a linguistic minority within its borders than to interfere and risk a secessionist revolt by a national linguistic minority concentrated in Quebec? But if no one defends Quebec’s anglophones now, doesn’t that open the door to a future Bill 15, then 20, then 30, until English is virtually illegal there, and/or all the anglophones have left?

    • There’s a definite feeling among at least some Quebec anglophones that things like Bill 14 are designed to push out anglophones without appearing too radical to francophone voters. That’s why the proposed CEGEP rules were so divisive (and almost immediately dropped)—many francophones view attending an English CEGEP as the best opportunity to become genuinely bilingual, and they are also a good stepping stone to the English universities, especially McGill. So, among large segments of the otherwise-sovereigntist intelligentsia, the CEGEP rules were a bridge too far.

      As for why there hasn’t been a stronger backlash against Bill 14 yet, much of it has to do with the fact that we’ve got a minority government. François Legault has made some suggestions that the CAQ might possibly support an amended version of the Bill, but until he says something definitive, a lot of people are working under the assumption that it either will not pass or that only a watered down bill with minimal effects will pass. Things would be quite different if the PQ had a majority—while we probably wouldn’t have the mass protests that we had last summer over tuition fees, there would definitely be much more of a movement against further language rules, especially in the wake of pasta-gate. As it is, the Quebec anglophone community’s collective desire not to stir things up (and thus potentially make things much worse) is mostly winning out in the short term.

    • The national Post this week had an article by Dan Delamr, writing “49% of Quebecers have trouble reading French”, How can the rest of Canada manage or to be expected then without the
      same immersion of French surroundings?

      • Until late 1980s, 60% of Quebeckers had only primary education. Not very much changed it seems.

    • For an American, you show remarkable intelligence, acumen and perspective. Thank you for your viewpoint.

    • We must remember that only 33% of Québecers voted for this government and even less support this kind of restriction on English.

  7. As a matter of fact, I am prejudiced against the French. They’re nothing more than a bunch of Fascists with their oppressive government regime.
    I am in the study of Spanish, which is a much nicer, more universal language, thank you.

  8. Québec is the only French society in North America? News to me! Hi, my name is Michel and I’m from northern Ontario. My Cajun friends from Louisiana would like to speak with the article’s author, as would my Acadian friends from the maritimes (only to name a few « other French societies » in North America)…

  9. They won their petty and immature little culture war.
    Good for them.
    To celebrate I will be spending a few grand on vacation in Vancouver this year instead of Quebec.

  10. Keep your language and culture in Quebec, as you ‘pur laine’ seem to have little tolerance for anyone but yourselves. French has been indeed rammed down the throats of English speaking Canadians and a backlash is coming. The tail is wagging the dog in Canada and an end to this costly and insane artificial language policy must end. You have a French homeland in Quebec so why don’t all of you Franco phonies from far and wide just build your own nation there. We won’t miss you.

    • I hope in history class they taught you that the French first settled every province in Canada (except Newfoundland and BC), it’s nice to see how you respect the forefathers of our country.

      • Englishman Henry Kelsey was the first European to actually explore parts of what later became Manitoba and Saskatchewan and was the first white man to see the prairies. You can hardly call la Verendrye’s and de Niverville’s much later quasi military incursions into territory already ceded to Great Britain by France through the treaty of Utrecht, settling. Neither were the hireling voyageurs who worked for the British fur trading companies settlers. Best you get acquainted with the real history of the country and not the B.S. taught in Quebec by the pur laine or by Francophile revisionists. Too many Anglos in Quebec suffer from the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ it seems.

  11. Canada seems to be pushing “duality”, and it is bankrupting New Brunswick. Dual services can be from the same building and staff you would think.

  12. I respect the fact that Francophones wish to protect their language ,but I do not respect the approach on achieving this.
    The original intention of the official language act was to provide services “where warranted” has now morphed into discriminatory hiring practices by governments.
    The fact remains that 78%> of the population does not speak the second language yet government hiring federal and provincial often exceeds 60-65% bilingual to serve that 22%.
    My question is why 60-65% considered “warranted “when clearly the majority even with merit would be excluded for language only?
    Many Francophones have argued that they must protect their language and prevent assimilation and justify this with legislation like Bill 101 and presently in “the national assembly” bill 14.

    With official bilingualism across the country many of the 200 other existing cultures in Canada must learn French to attain prosperity and work for their own government ,being that this is not their culture would this not be considered assimilation?
    Therefore what Quebec and Francophone’s outside of Quebec are fighting against ,the Federal and Provincial Governments are imposing on their people for those slim opportunities to work for their own Governments.

    Now federal bill C-419 is further limiting the majority to work for their own government.

    Private Member’s Bill – C-419, Third Reading (41-1)

    So people this is what the government calls “where numbers warrant”,in most other societies this would be called Social Engineering.

  13. What started as an application with “practical” intentions has morphed into front line workers demanding to speak the language of their choice to their superiors. French first bilingual speakers therefore advance in their careers while English speakers get denied promotions. The human resources departments of government departments are filled with French first employees who only hire from their own tribe thus relegating the English speakers to the back of the bus in terms of promotion. The creator of the OLA, Pierre Trudeau stated in 1973, “unilingual anglophones will be SENTENCED to a lifetime of job immobility”. Language apartheid to create affirmative jobs for one sector of our society is what enforced bilingualism is all about.

  14. English speaking Canadians, the majority of our population,
    are angry with governments’ consistent effort to force the people to make a
    failed but very costly policy of Official Bilingualism work in Canada. The
    additional cost to our governments and business, some estimate is over one
    trillion dollars and there are still less than five out of a hundred Canadians,
    outside the province of Quebec who are able to speak or understand French. The
    Official Languages Act (1969) made Canada bilingual by law only, but Quebec has
    chosen not to accept that and passed legislation making French, their one
    official Language.

    The Federal
    Government in their efforts to make this failed policy work have even resorted
    to setting bilingualism as a major requirement for applicants for jobs where it
    should not be a factor in selecting possible qualified applicants. The result
    is that French speaking workers outside of Quebec have a lower unemployment
    rate and the employed workers earn more because of their limited numbers. This
    creates a deep division and obstructs any attempts for a united Canada.

    We have
    heard for fifteen years leaders of three levels of government state that
    Official Bilingualism is not working and is costing Canadians hundreds of
    billions of dollars. Then why do we continue with it?

    We as
    Canadian Citizens also have a responsibility in this important issue of ending
    official bilingualism immediately. If you feel that billions of dollars spent
    annually promoting Official Bilingualism could be used in other areas such as
    the economy, outdated infrastructure, health care, education and the needs of
    our seniors, then let your elected representatives know how you feel. Pick up
    the phone, e-mail or write your Member of Parliament, MLA, Premier and local
    Mayor or Councillor. They were elected to represent you in government.

    Yours truly,

    Ken Kellington,


  15. The real question is, when will people moving to English speaking Canada actually have to speak English?