Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Xenophobia Creeping Into Montreal Language Debate

Last week Pierre Curzi, the PQ member of the National Assembly and language critic wrote a piece in the Le Devoir, a Montreal daily newspaper, complaining that immigrants are taking over the island of Montreal.

Entitled "Protect French, move back to the island"("Protégez le français, revenez sur votre île!"), he frets that ethnics are taking over the island and blames white francophones 'de souche' (native Quebeckers) for moving to the suburbs.

He concludes that the immigrants will ultimately turn into Anglophones and thus contribute to anglicization of Montreal, which will ultimately threaten the very existence of the French language in the Province of Quebec. It's a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Despite all the immigration over the last 30 years, the proportion of Anglos has remained remarkably steady.

It's fair to ask if the issue is actually about language or rather about his fear that immigrants (whether they speak French or English) will outnumber pure-bred Quebeckers on the island of Montreal and so affect it's very essence and complexion.

In an even more disturbing article written in La Presse entitled "Francophones not answering the bell"("Les francophones manquent à l'appel"), writer Marie Allard takes the question of the quality of the 'Frenchness' of Montrealers to a disturbing new level.

She complains that the number of allophone students entering school in Montreal outnumber the Francophones 'de souche' and complains about their mother tongue or the mother tongue of the parents of those students.
Less than 40% were born in Québec, as were both their parents. The others were born in Québec of parents born outside the province (23,1%, this rate is rising since 2005), or born of one parent born elsewhere (9,9%) or born in Canada of two Canadian parents(2,4%).
("Moins de 40% des élèves étaient nés au Québec, comme leurs deux parents. Les autres étaient nés au Québec de deux parents nés à l'étranger (23,1%, ce taux plafonne depuis 2005), nés au Québec dont un parent est à l'étranger (9,9%) ou nés ailleurs au Canada ou dont les deux parents sont nés ailleurs au Canada (2,4%)")
Sounds disturbingly like a quote worthy of a participant of the Wansee Conference whereby the Nazis discussed how to define Jews.

The fact that these students are all attending French school seems to be completely beside the point. Where the students come from and what language their parents speak at home, seems to be the major issue.

The question is why? If they are attending French school, what's the difference?
René Levesque must be rolling in his grave!

Anyone who says the French language debate has nothing to do with ethnocentrism is deluding themselves.

The debate highlights a much larger issue, the absolute dread that francophone Quebeckers have that Montreal will turn into a ethnically diverse 'zoo', one that resembles Toronto or Vancouver, instead of looking like Quebec City, the pristine, picture perfect example of what Quebec nationalists perceive as ideal.
The only problem for those who dream of an ethnically pure Quebec, is that it is not sustainable.

Between 1987 and 2007, Québec welcomed about 750,000 immigrants, over 600,000 who settled in the greater Montreal region (83%).
Quebec City averages just 2,000 immigrants per year and the numbers for the other regions of Quebec are even more pitiful. It's no wonder that these regions are suffering a declining population. The Gaspé region attracted just 20 immigrants in 2007!
You can see other statistics at

As Montreal becomes more and more ethnically diverse, a battle looms on the horizon and it isn't going to be between the English and French, it'll be between immigrants and nativists.


  1. I believe it's Pierre Curzi, not Foglia.

    Two names, BTW, who do not sound very french to me ! ;)

    You're right, there are some french-canadian nationalists who are pretty xenophobic. I had a tense discussion with one, once, who criticized me because I fell in love with an irish/scottish woman. Hou la la, my children won't be pure, tut tut!

    This being said, some of my anglo neighbours frequently warn me that "people like you and me" (meaning white people) will be overruned by colored immigrants. So I guess xenophobia is not a french canadian monopoly, eh? ;)

  2. Bill 101 should never have seen the light of day. It was a promise of Confederation that if any province attempted to violate the rights and freedoms of any of its minorities that the federal government was to "veto" such legislation.

    Now we're stuck with the race law/hate law known as Bill 101.

    I am now convinced that there is a better chance for this horrible law to be repealed if Quebec becomes independent. Canada is the impediment to individual rights; all federal political parties not only accept Bill 101 but go out of their way to endorse it...all for the sake of Canadian Unity.

    I say: it is Canada that should be sacrificed for individual rights and not the other way around. See:


  3. It's good to see you are taking on this issue, we must denounce this type of behaviour as very anti-social. The scenario repeats itself everywhere, so the best way to discourage it is to write about it and publically humiliate the purpetrators as you are doing here. Taking action is the best weapon against fear, xenophobia and our franosupremacists unconfortable with the power of the Lingua Franca over Montreal's population.

  4. Not at all, I think the problem is that there have not learned how to achieve a balance so that cultures do not predominate but have positive influence on the native language.

  5. Why is this referred to as the "language debate'? There's no debate going on that I know of. The English language in Quebec is no longer considered an official language and there are no ifs ands or buts about it. It's the LOI!! An ethnic cleansing, disgusting, illegal law made legal and endorsed by our Federal government to boot!!

    And the English and Allo population has been frightened into submission - just as the Jews were frightened into submission when the Nazi's did exactly the same thing - but at a much faster and much deadlier pace. Nevertheless the methods are identical. At that time the World turned the other way - until it hit their doorsteps. Then the UN was created with a "Never Again" mandate... only to renege on that as soon as the coins started to collect, that shut them up.
    That this is still labelled as a debate; giving the impression - it's still under discussion would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic!
    here in Canada, the supposed land of the brave, home of the free - the 25 years of ethnic cleansing going on in Quebec, the 25 years of discrimination, the 25 years of having a population of more than 2.5 million REMOVED from the Charter of Rights, the SILENCE continues.