Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Language Zealots Racist

Quebecers are relentlessly reminded by language militants that French is under attack and in serious decline. Organizations, both public and private such as the Office québécois de la langue française and the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste churn out a steady diet of false and misleading statistics bolstering this precept.

The latest campaign focuses on the fact that French as the mother tongue, has fallen below the fifty percent level for residents of the island of Montreal, thus proving that the language needs additional protection.

This selective use of statistics and faulty conclusion should not go unchallenged.

Quebec, like all western societies, relies on immigration to maintain it’s population. Without immigration, Quebec would lose up to twenty-five percent of it’s population with each passing generation and as a result, would lose over half it’s population within sixty years. Accepting immigrants is not a case of generosity but rather an act of survival.

Now unless Quebec accepts these immigrants from France or Belgium exclusively, it is certain that the above-mentioned statistic related to French as a mother tongue will track downward, for a while anyway. However, there is nothing threatening in this fact. New immigrants are almost exclusively absorbed by the French majority and the fact that their children are forced into French schools invariably leads the resulting generations to adopt French as their mother tongue.

Today more people use French at work, at home, at school and at play then ever in the entire history of Quebec. The mantra that French is in decline is so ingrained, it is accepted as an unassailable fact, but it is not true.

The whole argument of mother tongue is plainly irrelevant and smacks of racism. What is undeniably true, is that the colour and complexion of those speaking French is changing. This fact may not sit well with language extremists, but it has nothing to do with the English influence, nor is there anything they can do to change it.

When language extremists complain about mother tongue it is simply code. What they are really complaining about is the black, brown and oriental faces on the streets of Montreal. They are complaining about Hijibs, Saris and Hassidic dress. That these people speak French at home and at work is not really the issue, the fact that they are not white and Catholic, is.

Quebec culture is evolving. It is changing to reflect the diverse elements that now come to make it up. The process is inexorable and irreversable and while frightening to some, it is exciting for others.

In accepting immigrants as a neccessary evil, Quebecers, especially language and cultural nationalists must accept that these people will change the face of society, all the while speaking French at home and at work.

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