While Pierre Curzi and his entourage of language Apartheidists fulminate against the teaching of English in Quebec, it's good to see many of us on both sides of the language equation giving short shrift to the notion of restricting rather than expanding student's horizons.
"Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, a French-language junior college, and Marianopolis College, an English-language counterpart, will offer Quebec's first inter-college bilingual exchange program.And at two Montreal area private high schools, one Muslim French and one Jewish English;
Students who apply and demonstrate a proficiency in their non-dominant official language will be allowed to study at the other college." Read more at CBC
While watching an interview the other day with Pauline Marois, who was struggling mightily to give an interviewer a tiny sound bite in English, in regard to the shale gas debate, it occurred to me how far apart the gulf between Montreal and the rest of Quebec (ROQ) has become in terms of capacity and determination to speak the other official language.
Madame Marois was so ill prepared for the interview that she fumbled around rather clumsily before giving up and using the French term of '"gaz de schiste' for the English "shale gas."
While both terms have only recently become widely used, you'd think that she'd know the English term, or failing that, turn to an aide and ask for the translation for the word before giving an English interview on the subject, it wouldn't have taken a big effort.
Instead she was oblivious to the fact, or didn't care a whit that she came off looking like a stuttering tourist, instead of the next potential Premier of Quebec.
There's a word that language militants bandy about in describing we anglos that applies perfectly in this situation. mépris ( contempt, scorn.)
For a good laugh, watch this video of Pauline struggling in English.
Madame Marois is not atypical of the new political class who hail from outside Montreal and cannot speak English worth a damn. She is representative of the new reality. While Montreal is bilingual and getting more bilingual everyday, the rest of Quebec is unilingual and getting more unilingual everyday.
"....It's right up there in Chapter One, Article One of the city's charter: "Montreal is a French-speaking city."
But as just about anyone can tell you, the fact is that Montreal is bilingual. At least, that is the overwhelming conclusion of a survey last week for the Association of Canadian Studies.
Eighty per cent of Quebecers agree with the statement: "Montreal is a bilingual city,......" Read more in the Montreal Gazette
The Liberal Party is not much better, even French cabinet ministers struggle to give a decent interview in English.
Only the Anglos members of the Liberal party and Premier Charest remain truly bilingual.
Sixty-six years ago Hugh MacLennan wrote of the Two Solitudes that represented the gulf between Francophone Quebec and Anglophone Canada.
Today a new gulf has emerged, one that could never have been foreseen, even thirty years ago. It is the gulf between Montreal which represents a bilingual multi-ethnic society as opposed to the unilingual, mono-cultured society that is the ROQ.
As time goes by, the two societies seem to like each other less and less, with Montrealers scornful of the provincial rubes and the unilingual ROQers terrified that their world is evolving out of their comfort zone.
Which societal path will Quebec follow in the future?
With the economic power of the province lying with Montreal, but the political power lying with the ROQ, which faction will gain the upper hand?
Will the province become more like Montreal or will Montreal become more like the province?
Readers.... it's time for you to weigh in.