It seems that forces in the English community, in a clever attempt to influence the government's coming reaction to Bill 104, (the law struck down by the Supreme Court that restricted access to English schools) has come up with an ace in the hole and has struck a devastating blow to French language militants.
Yesterday, the Montreal Gazette published a poll that completely destroys the militant position that there is popular support for restricting access to English schools. LINK
The numbers have stunned everyone involved in the debate and appear to show that the majority of Quebeckers, even Francophones, want universal and free choice to both private and public English schools for everyone.
66% of Quebeckers (61% of Francophones) backed this position in a telephone survey conducted by the Leger marketing company.
The numbers are even more stunning when it come to admission to Cgep (junior college) with 84% of all Quebeckers (80% of Francophones) believing that universal access should be maintained.
For sovereignists it's a bitter pill to swallow with Mario Beaulieu of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste claiming foul and that the survey is somehow rigged. Perhaps he knows something we don't, he's the champion spinmeister and is an expert at distorting information. LINK
The poll results is just now trickling through the nationalist movement and it's unlikely that any of them will accept the results, so expect to see flat out denials that the poll is in any way real or indicative of what Francophones really think. The poll will surely be attacked on its methodology or it will be tarred as being dishonest or flawed. Perhaps it will be ignored in the faint hope that it won't make a splash in the French press. Not likely.
At any rate, it is going to make Jean Charest's job, in relation to the Bill 104 file even harder. He had counted on popular support against English school access in the crafting of his response to the rejection of Bill 104 by the Supreme Court and the stipulation that a new law be enacted before the Fall. It now appears that the majority of Quebeckers are not in board. Whodda thunk that!
One of the curious aspects of the poll is that it represents so different a reality than has been painted by the press, the nationalists and even the politicians. Every day we are harangued that English school access is evil and unwanted, but it doesn't appear to be the case at all.
Is the language debate in general and the vendetta against English schools in particular, a house of cards run by militants without real popular support? It appears so.
How devastating is this poll?
More than you think. Every time a militants demands restrictions to English schools, we can fairly argue that the position goes against popular support.
I'm afraid that all that will be left is the "Father knows Best" argument whereby militants profess to the right to impose their own political agenda, because like a father, they better understand what is best for Quebeckers.
It hasn't been a good week all around for language militants, who are reeling from the reaction to their complaints about too many English artists scheduled to perform at the Festival d’été de Québec (Quebec Summer Festival.)
A letter, signed by 25 'distinguished' Quebeckers, denouncing the Anglo participation was sent to the Minister of Culture, Christine St-Pierre.
In an effort to avoid the horribly negative publicity that the province endured last year over Anglo
artists being pulled, the reinstated to the Fete St. Jean celebrations
in Montreal, members of Quebec's National Assembly voted unanimously to support organizers of the festival, thus dealing another blow to language militants, who expressed surprise at the universal rejection that their letter received. LINK
It looks like there's going to be a couple of interesting couple of days ahead of us in relation to this language poll and I shall be keeping close tabs on the reaction in both the communities.