Before an election, a bit of language politics

Howdy. We’ll be getting to your irregularly scheduled not-yet-quite-an-election coverage shortly. First, though, I’d like to point out this nice little scoop from La Presse’s (absurdly well-connected) Denis Lessard today. It seems the conseil superieure de la langue française, the advising body to the minister responsible for the French language charter, has deemed that it would be a mistake to extend Bill 101 to CEGEPs (our finishing schools). That is to say, to make it mandatory that all Francophones and Allophones attend French CEGEP.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. The idea of forcing Francos and Allos into French CEGEP has been a bit of a warhorse for the PQ for quite sometime. When I wrote about it ages and ages ago, a few people bitched and moaned suggested I was out to lunch: mandatory French CEGEP, they said, was a fringe-y Péquiste thing that would never find its way into the welcoming bosom that is the party’s mainstream.

It did, of course, thanks mostly to this fellow. Pierre Curzi is the PQ’s resident language hawk who made mandatory French CEGEP his baby—necessary, he says, to stanch the burgeoning Anglicizing tide of English. PQ leader Pauline Marois, eager to appeal to the ever-skeptical hard sovereignists within her own party, endorsed the idea.

The Conseil’s decision is a slap in the face for the PQ for a couple of reasons. First, the body has overwhelmingly ruled in favour of restrictive language policies in the past—most recently with the suggestion that the government should apply Bill 101 to private schools in the province. To have it go against one of the PQ’s key ideas hurts the language hawks big time. It also makes a bit of a mockery of Curzi’s own report, which states that mandatory French CEGEP is crucial for the survival of the French language. That said, the conseil’s decision surely comes as a big relief to Sylvain Simard et Marie Malavoy who, as Lessard points out, were against Curzi’s plan—probably because it made the PQ less-sellable to the large soft nationalist vote.

If they don’t endorse the idea during their general assembly next month (and I can’t see that they will), it will mean  the party of Bill 101 will have sacrificed hardline language policy for the sake of electability. What a bunch of softies they’re becoming.

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