The rationale behind this policy is the theory that schooling will act as the great melting pot and will transform students of all stripes and backgrounds into Francophones by the time they leave high school.
That's the theory...
But the reality transcends the model and as much as French language militants wish it were so, the theory fails in practice. For an English family or one that adopts English as the lingua franca of the home, the children will become Anglophones, regardless of the educational path.
********************I'm a regular customer at a local fruit and vegetable store run by an extended Tamil family in the Notre-Dame-de Grace (NDG) district, an Anglo stronghold in western Montreal. The proprietors of the shop are model immigrants, a credit to themselves and to our collective decision to allow them join us as citizens of this country. Hard working and ambitious, they work long hours for little pay, striving to achieve the Canadian dream.
One day, I asked one of the women who worked there (in her late thirties,) how she came to speak such excellent English.
"What do you mean?" she answered quite indignantly "Sri Lanka may be a poor country, but everyone learns English in school!"
"Excuuussse me..." I answered sheepishly, "But where do your children go to school?"
"They go to French schools, where else? But we speak only English at home and they will speak both languages when they are finished high school. When they go to university, they will go to McGill!"
My wife is a client of another enterprising self-employed immigrant, a Filipina who provides in-home foot spa treatments. It's a time to relax and discuss nonsense, much as men talk hockey with their barber.
Their conversations during treatments, about this or that television show or a certain movie demonstrates clearly that English is not only her language of choice, but her culture, as well. Although her children are forced to go to French school, there's no doubt as to which cultural group the family will assimilate to.
Like my Tamil grocer family, her children to will grow up become bilingual Anglophones.
The coercive efforts of a government attempting to mold people into what they do not want to be, can only go so far.
A year or two ago, there was a great flap in one of the French schools as children were admonished for speaking English during recess and play. Tut! Tut!
It's as if the government and the schools wish to reach into the brain of every child and lobotomize the English portion.
But the heart wants, what the heart wants. That's just the way it is.
Immigrant parents who arrive in Quebec with some English, invariably make the choice to align themselves with the Anglophone community. They seek out employment where English can be spoken and adopt the language and culture in the home, believing firmly that giving their children the gift of English is the most important thing that they can do as parents. Forcing the children of these families into French schools will make them bilingual, but will not create Francophones.
This is the essential element that is misunderstood by language militants. French schooling does not necessarily turn children into Francophones.
The same can be said for Francophone families that send their children to English schools. The children don't transform themselves into Anglophones, but rather become bilingual Francophones. (That is the subject of future post)
A couple of months ago, I caught Sugar Sammy, Montreal's hottest comedian on the French language talk-show, Tout le Monde en Parle. Shifting effortlessly between English and French, he demonstrated the very best of what bilingual Montrealers are. Of Indian immigrant stock, he was forced to attend French school, but like the families I described above, English was spoken at home.
Despite his long years in the French eduction system, his accent-less English remains much better than his French. He is as thorough an Anglo Quebecker as I, who was born here and enjoyed a complete and comprehensive education in English .
Watch him perform in French and then do an interview in English or even in Punjabi. Amazing language skills!
Regardless of language however, his shtick is clearly from an Anglophone/Ethnic perspective. If you haven't seen his act, you are missing a treat, a comedian who will have you rolling in the aisles. If you are an Anglo, Ethnic or Francophone with a good sense of humour, don't miss it.
If you are a committed sovereignist or sourpuss language militant, stay far away. His opening joke in French, at the Just For Laughs Festival is an example of his of what his background is.
"There's two types of Quebeckers-- There are those Quebekers who are educated, cultivated and well brought up..........and then there's those who voted YES!"YIKKESS!!!!
The propensity of immigrants who arrive to Quebec with some level of English, to adopt the Anglophone community as their own, is not lost on Quebec's immigration department. For many years they have prioritized French speaking immigrants in order to stem the flow of immigrants flowing into the Anglo community.
That is why, of all the newly arrived immigrants to Quebec, over 30% come from France, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon and Tunisia.
Of the immigrants who came to Quebec between 2003 and 2007, (aside from their native tongue,) they also spoke;
French only....................... 23%
English only........................ 18%
French & English .................34%
No French or English..............25%
These figure are quite startling.
With all the government's effort to favour French speaking immigrants, the difference between those who come to Quebec with French only as compared to English only is not that large.
For the 18% of immigrants who come to Quebec each year who speak some English but no French, the chances that their children will become Francophones because of a forced French education is almost zilch.
The children of these families will attend French school and will likely become perfectly bilingual, but Francophones, they will not become.
If ever the saying "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink" applies, it is in the Quebec language debate.