It is the entire basis of the government's francization program, one which is largely supported by militant French language elements who also believe that forcing children of immigrants into a French educational path will ultimately lead them to assimilate.
The only difference between the government's position and that of the militants, is that the latter wants compulsory French education extended from cradle to grave, given that the current situation, of compulsory French grammar school and high school, hasn't seemed to have achieved the hoped for result.
But both the government and the militants have misunderstood the essential element in language choice.
It is the family and not the school that determines whether a child of an immigrant family becomes part of the English or French community. Once an immigrant family has chosen to align themselves on the English side of the equation, all the French school can accomplish is to turn that student into a bilingual Anglo.
The scenario plays itself out over and over again, as students of immigrant parents (who have chosen English for their family) head straight for English Cegep, (junior college) once the language prohibition is lifted. Forcing these students into French Cegeps, as is suggested by French language militants, won't change anything, they are already Anglos.
Leafing through the Quebec Immigration Department's "Tableaux sur l'immigration" we find that almost twenty percent of immigrants arriving in Quebec, in additional to their mother tongue, speak some English and zero French. These include immigrants that hail from, amongst other countries, India, Pakistan, China, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka.
Integrating these people into the French side of the language equation is well nigh impossible, given that the schools are the only tool being used in the assimilation process, one which ignores the parents and attempts to francize the children, alone.
Let's look at a typical example.
Jinny and Freddy Alvaraz along with their infant daughter arrive from Manila to start their new life in Quebec. They arrive in Montreal where Jinny's sister who is already established, takes them in. After a couple of weeks they find their own apartment in the Snowdon area of Montreal. The district is home to most of Montreal's 30,000 Filipinos and the couple quickly and comfortably integrate. Eager to fit in, they mostly give up their native Tagalog and start speaking the common language of the community -English.
While not completely proficient, Jinny and Freddy both have a good working knowledge of the language, having studied it in school, back in the Philippines. The couple joins the local Filipino Baptist Church where English is also the language of devotion.
Through her sister's friend, Jinny finds work quickly as a cleaning lady and works in various homes in the towns of Cote St Luc and Hampstead, where English dominates. It's only one bus ride and the work, while not high paying, is a start.
Freddy finds work through a Filipino community group and starts as a factory worker near the airport. Although the bosses and managers are French, most of the workers are Filipino and orders are given in English. Most of his conversations are with his Filipino co-workers, so English is the common bond.
The couple quickly become 'Canadian.' The biggest form of entertainment is television where the family becomes addicted to American drama and comedy shows. They attend Church activities and visit with friends and relatives in the community, all in English.
Their little daughter, who is being minded by a distant aunt is starting to talk. Her first words are 'Mamma' and 'Dadda.' She watches English cartoon shows with the other kids and is entertained and minded by the caregiver in English.
Within three years the family is completely anglicized, everyone speaks excellent English, including young Evelyn. French is a non-entity, as the couple has little or no contact with francophones. Their Snowdon apartment is located in an almost exclusively immigrant and English community. Shopping, working, recreating all occur in English.
When Evelyn turns five years old, it's time to send her to school, where she is enrolled in French school as required by law.
At first it's difficult for her to adapt, as she mixes up English and French terms. Eventually, it works itself out, kids are dynamic and quick learners. She grasps French quickly, but prefers to speak to her friends at school in English. Most of her classmates are Filipino or Black and the majority are in the same boat as her, immigrants from anglo backgrounds. Even though teachers discourage this practice, it's hard stop kids from talking English.
Back at home Evelyn continues to speak to her parents in English. At night they watch English television shows together. She develops her own personality, watches Miley Cyrus and is crazy for Justin Bieber. When her parents aren't home, she faithfully tunes in to MTV Canada or Muchmusic.
Her parents encourage her to learn as much English as possible and lend books from the library to build up her English skills, after all it is their dream that one day she'll attend the great McGill University!
The family take a vacation to Toronto, where the Filipino community is even larger and where the family has relatives. They are encouraged by family members to move to Ontario, where English schooling is open to the children and jobs are plentiful. The family considers this option, many of their friends have gone down this path.
Summer arrives and Evelyn is sent to a church day camp- all in English.
When September rolls around, Evelyn and her English friends head back to French school, it's no big deal, she's bilingual.
Jinny becomes pregnant twice more and all the children follow in Evelyn's path. They are anglicized at home and bilingualized in school.
By the time Evelyn (and then her siblings) graduate high school, her English skills are much stronger than her French ones and there's little doubt where her educational path will follow- English Cegep.
This story is not fantasy, a figment of my imagination, it is repeated with variations, over and over again in many immigrant communities, not only the Filipinos.
Watching a performance of Montreal's finest comedian, Sugar Sammy( Indo-Canadian heritage), who does his act in both English and French, there's little doubt that he's a bilingual Anglo, this despite having completed his primary and high school education in French. While his English is perfect, his French is not quite.
Trust me, he didn't learn his perfect English in Cegep, he was anglicized long before.
For many immigrant children, this is the norm, not the exception.
This is the reality that those looking to francize immigrants need to understand. Concentrating on schools as the only device of francization is a recipe doomed to failure.
To paraphrase a great James Carville's barb, first coined during the Clinton presidential campaign against Bush......
......It's the family, stupid.....