Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Heightened Language Hostility ...Is this the New Normal?
There is no doubt that the PQ's controversial election platform and its subsequent ascension to power, has set the stage for something we never really saw in Quebec, real confrontation on the street between the English minority and the French majority.
That is because Pauline is viewed by the Anglo community as the most hostile and aggressive of all the PQ Premiers, someone who makes no bones about her plan to govern for the 80% francophone population, while disdaining the rest.
The aggressive language policy which the PQ enunciated during the election campaign pandered to language militants boosting their expectations and emboldening them into action now that the PQ is elected.
Unfortunately the stars seem to have aligned in a particularly bad way, with the hurtful PQ election campaign followed by the attempt on Marois' life and the death of an innocent by a deranged Anglo, followed by several well-publicized language incidents.
Some Anglos are now saying that they fear speaking English in public, lest they be accosted, while some francophones are saying they are intimidated to ask for service in French in the West Island or even in downtown Montreal.
It's getting weird...
Where the heck did all this come from? I've never seen this in my lifetime and I go way back.
Perhaps it is the age of social media that brings all these conflicts to our immediate attention and perhaps it was always there but unseen or unheard, but somehow I think not.
An idiot standing on a soapbox on the corner of Peel and Ste-Catherine St. in downtown Montreal, hurling insults at either the English or the French passersby will be roundly ignored, but if he put those same insults on a Facebook page, it would likely end up being a very big deal.
One thing francophone militants are right about is the attitude change in the English, who seem to believe that with no one in government interested in protecting their rights, it is up to them to stand up for themselves.
This new and brash attitude has shocked the French militant community, who for so long were accustomed to Anglos rolling over.
This aggressive attitude is typified by the now infamous Facebook quote by a Cineplex Odeon employee who answered a complainer (who has asked for an explanation as to why the newest and most technologically advanced screening rooms in a Laval movie complex showed only English movies) with the insultingly dismissive phrase, "If you don't like it, go to Guzzo :)" Link
Anglos thought the incident hilarious, francophones, not so much.
The tables were turned when a Montreal metro ticket agent put up a home-made sign on the window of his booth, warning commuters that in Quebec, everything is supposed to happen in French, intimating that he wasn't going to speak English to customers, no matter what. While the Anglo media raged at the affront, francophones thought the Anglos were making a mountain out of a molehill.
Now in any fight between the English and the French there isn't much doubt as to who has the advantage of numbers and the weight of authority behind them.
But just as the students taught us, it doesn't take a lot of effort to bring organized society to its knees and let's face it, the students were actually taking it easy on us and could have done a lot more damage.
It is safe to say that reasonable people, which make up the vast majority of Quebecers are not at all pleased at the confrontational direction we are going towards.
The real problem is, that whatever language equilibrium that existed before with the Quebec Liberals, is gone with the election of the PQ and there now exists a real danger that things can degenerate into an unstoppable language food fight.
Now before readers go off on me and say that the English suffered under the Liberal government as well, the truth is that our community largely accepted limits placed upon English up to then, a grudgingly acceptable compromise and while most of us didn't like these language laws, the restrictions weren't so onerous that it drove us into the street.
For those who are going to jump on me for the statement, I'll have to remind them that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, in other words the very lack of English resistance and push back during the Charest regime, serves as proof that the Anglos had largely accepted the language compromise.
So what is to come?
Well it seems that Anglos have drawn a line in the sand.
If harsh new language laws are put in place, there will be push back by Anglos and how dangerous things will become is anyone's guess.
The government can triple the force of the OQLF officers but if they think they will have the cooperation of those into whose life they intrude, I will remind you of the Shawville experience where in 1999, a posse of militant Shawville English-speakers chased a provincial “language police” inspector out of town during a showdown over French on business signs.
As we can see in today's climate, it doesn't take much to set off a language incident and it might not be long before these new OQLF inspectors (which are supposed to be hired,) find an unwelcome reception, forcing them to work in groups or accompanied by armed guards or police. We really may be approaching this.
As for compliance with these OQLF directives demanding English signs be submissive or that descriptors be added to English store names, legal contestations by thousands of stores and business could gum up the legal system to a point where the resolution of a file could take over three years, after which the merchant just before final adjudication, could just remove the sign and replace it with another equally 'offensive' sign.
This game of judicial terrorism, was proposed by separatist journalist Josée Legault who advised the government to play this cat and mouse game of legal rope-a-dope when faced with unfavourable Supreme Court language decisions.
The realIty is that our society functions only as long as each group respects not only the law but the spirit of the law as well.
This is the lesson that students taught us recently, that when a government passes legislation that offends or in fact outrages a significant portion of its citizens, it risks dangerous blowback and civil disobedience which can rock the very foundations of democracy.
So far Anglos may be comforted in seeing the PQ trip over themselves, making one gaffe after another, looking more like high school Parliamentarians then those capable of running a province.
Taking one step forward and two steps back, the finance minister has already admitted that he has to go back to the drawing board in relation to his plan to tax the rich retroactively, after being told by opposition parties that they will not support the minority government over the tax issue.
There remains a very real fear in the PQ that if the government is brought down, the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec will form a coalition government, thus bypassing a new election.
So all legislation will have to be a compromise, or else Pauline could turn into a sad sack like Joe Clark, who's minority Conservative government was swept out of power after just seven months. I believe she is cagey enough to understand this and will never let it happen.
For Pauline, even her supporters will admit that power has always been her ultimate goal with dogmatic language and sovereignty policies, clearly subservient.
But even though Pauline won't risk her government on separatist or extreme language principles, there is one thing that the PQ can and will do that should have Anglos worrying.
Pauline can successfully legislate on language, because none of the opposition parties can survive bringing down the government defending the English. It would be the proverbial kiss of death.
And so it will be inevitable that Pauline moves to strengthen Bill 101, perhaps sacrificing the controversial proposal to apply Bill 101 to cegeps.
I honestly don't think that most in the caucus are really for the proposal, which was only made to satisfy the radical element.
I'm sure Pauline can include the provision in the bill, using it as a bargaining chip, to be offered up to the opposition in order to have all sides coming up smelling like roses.
Pauline will claim that she had to compromise and the opposition will tell us how they effectively diluted the Bill.
Everyone is a winner!!
Part of these 'non-controversial' aspects to the beefed up Bill 101 will see business' of between 11 and 50 employees now fall under the francization rules of the law, forcing them to operate in French, even if every single employee is English.
I cannot think of a more disastrous law, one that is guaranteed to drive small business' to Ontario and points beyond.
Imagine a family business in the West Island where all eleven employees, bosses and workers are English, being forced to operate in French.
It is Orwellian.
And it is coming.....
While Mr. Beaulieu and his minions are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of finally sticking it to the Anglos, they might consider what demons and devils lie within the Pandora's box they are opening.
Posted by Editor on 10/10/2012 12:00:00 AM