Friday, January 14, 2011
What's Your Version of Linguistic Justice?
I'm glad that my views and those of our commenters provide a convenient foil. I have not provided a link back to that article as it is no longer my policy to encourage anyone to visit his site. Suffice to say I don't agree with his convoluted views, based on misinformation and faulty math. Preaching to the choir, he and Mario Beaulieu can spout just about anything and have it lapped up by his minion who collectively suffer from anglo-itis.
I did get an email (not a comment) from one of his readers asking me what exactly my version of linguistic justice represents and it occurred to me that it'd make sense to explain my point of view on the subject (and have readers give theirs.) The emailer pointed out, quite rightly, that I spend a good amount of time bitching and moaning, but never actually enunciate a position.
I've been thinking about it for a few days and it is fit and proper (as they say on The Rock def# 21) to outline my views on the major points of contention vis-a-vis language.
I've saved this piece for the weekend, so that readers can have the time to develop their own responses.
Now when it comes to language in Quebec, there are three basic points of view.
The first is shared by Mr. Prefontaine and his followers, and calls for a blanket rejection of English within Quebec. While some allowances would be made for the 'historic' Anglo minority,(whatever that is) the so-called accommodations are tailored to eliminate English in Quebec within a generation or two.
The second diametrically opposed view would restore complete and utter freedom of choice, whether that be in education, signage etc. etc.
The third choice is a compromise that lies somewhere between the two above options. Defining this policy is more difficult because there are many versions, depending on ones point of view.
My personal view is based on a personal version of that third way.
You may already have chosen Door number 1 or Door number 2 and so I look forward to reading your comments, but I suspect that most of our readers (on the anglo side) are not the language extremists that we are made out to be and will opt for their own personal version of Door number 3.
My view is based on a compromise, one that respects Quebec's desire to protect its language, which is a legitimate concern, while respecting its Anglophone citizens.
First, I'd like to point out that Francophones are a minority in Canada and a majority in Quebec, while Anglophones are a majority in Canada and a minority in Quebec.
It isn't fair, nor does it make sense to refer to Anglophones in Quebec as a minority without acknowledging their majority position in Canada. It isn't splitting hairs. Francophones who remind us that Quebec is French, refuse to admit that Canada is English.
Like it or not, Quebec remains an element of a country that is by any measure, mostly English. This fact cannot be ignored.
And so, I won't be referring to any group as a minority or a majority.
The rights of both francophones and anglophones to learn the other official language is of paramount importance, as Anglos living in Quebec cannot function reasonably without speaking French, while francophones cannot function reasonably in this world, without English.
There's little doubt that educations remains the most contentious issue, likely because it is believed by most, that children who attend French school will become assimilated on the French side of the language equation and that children who attend English school will be anglicized.
I don't actually agree with this interpretation and hold that it is the language spoken at home that determines what children will become in later life, but that is a whole other discussion.
The government should provide for both English and French education (as it does.) Anglophones should go to English schools and francophones should be streamed into French schools as policy. It's a reasonable compromise to tell francophones that the government won't pay for their schooling in English .
That being said, citizens who disagree, should have the right to opt out of public schools and attend private schools in the language of their choice. These private schools should continue to be subsidized by the government, but it is reasonable that a student not eligible for French education in the public system, be refused a subsidy in the private English system.
As for college and university I don't believe the government has an obligation to pay for English education for francophones. If they wish to attend English schools of higher learning they should pay for it.
I know many of you will disagree and this point will be contentious, but I believe that the government has the right to pay for what it wants to and if subsidizing francophones to go to English universities is not something they want to finance, so be it. The government would have to live with the consequences of telling these students that they could attend English universities, but would have to pay more than eligible Anglos to attend.
As the French language defenders point out, it means that only rich francophones could attend English schools, but so what?
There is nothing wrong with the government determining what kind of services it provides to its citizens, but at the same time, those who don't like or don't agree with the level of those services should be free to make their own arrangements.
By the way, this principle should also apply to Medicare with the government offering the medical services it determines it can afford and citizens free to accept those services or again, make their own arrangements privately.
This is the essence of freedom, which should always include the right to say 'no thank you.'
As for transition schools, where non-eligible students use a one-year ruse to win eligibility to English education, I would support any law that would eliminate the practice. It's sneaky and unfair.
If parents of non-eligible students want their child to go to an English school, the government shouldn't be obliged to pay for it, but on the other hand, parents should be allowed to send their kids to English schools if they are willing to pay the full ticket.
All Quebec immigrants should be streamed into French schools, but with some notable exceptions.
Immigrants of school age, who speak only English, should be entitled to go to English schools. This would include immigrants from the USA, Great Britain, Ireland, the English Caribbean islands and Australia and New Zealand.
Forcing these children into French school is an affront to good sense. They will never become Francophones no matter what. Remember, this is still Canada, AN ENGLISH SPEAKING NATION. No provincial government should be allowed to tell an English person that he or she must give up English to live in Canada.
Of all the language restrictions this one is by far the meanest and stupidest. As long as it remains on the books it will remain a testament to nastiness.
Public Service & Signage
I have no problem with French-only signage across the province of Quebec, except in bilingual towns where signs should be posted bilingually (without any preponderance of one language over another.) Bilingual towns should offer bilingual services, but cities where there are few anglos could provide French services only.
The provincial government should provide English services in the greater Montreal area, but in the boonies, service could be French only, with the proviso that English service could be arranged upon special request. This includes all government agencies (like the CSST) and crown corporations (like the SAQ)
I don't believe an English person can expect to be treated in English in a hospital in Chicoutimi, nor be served in English in a SAQ in Abitibi. That being said they should have this expectation in a town like Pointe-Claire.
That's my version of language fairness. It's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Nothing above will affect negatively on the protection of the French language, but it will make anglophones feel that they are treated fairly and remain honoured members of society.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, I know you have a strong opinion. You can critique my views or offer your very own perspective.
I'd ask that if you are going to comment in some length, add an ALIAS so people can comment on your opinion without referring to Anonymous@12:01.
Have a wonderful weekend!
A note to ALLCAPS;
It does not matter how many comments you send in, if you include a message in all capital letters that includes an expletive or a threat, or a desire to see somebody come to harm, IT WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED!!!!!
That's a lot of wasted effort, don't you think? You can say just about everything you want to say and still get published by obeying these simple good neighbour rules. You can even remain insulting and sarcastic (which I enjoy.)
Posted by Editor on 1/14/2011 12:01:00 AM