Keith Topolski discusses how being an upstanding citizen is being turned into a crime in Quebec.
Ever since the French and English fought over the new continent actually discovered by an Italian, there has been tension in Quebec over who is dominant: Anglophones or Francophones.
Although it has long been established that, for the Anglos, Quebec is the one place in Canada where you are not in the majority on this question, it has not been until recently that Anglophones have been made to feel unwelcome in their own homes.
Bill 101 has been law in Quebec for many years, and it designates that French shall be the predominant language in Quebec. No complaints so far.
However, with all the good intentions of preserving a piece of Canadian history, Quebec went too far by instituting the language police. Lest this site be accused of discrimination by Dear Leader Marois, the Office québécois de la langue française, to be precise.
The role of this office (Stasi might be a more appropriate term) is to ensure that all business conducted in Quebec is done in the official tongue.
This has included, in the past, efforts to demonise Anglophones whose only crime has been to give English and French equal billing.
This carries within it a debate over official bilingualism and whether one official language should have right of way over another official language. That’s a debate we can have another day.
What is more disturbing is that there needs to be a set of police on the beat, telling people what language they can and cannot speak.
Indeed, the new Parti Quebecois Government is introducing legislation to the Quebec Parliament, known as Bill 14, which would, among other things:
“… amend a host of Quebec laws, including the Charter of the French Language, the Quebec Human Rights Act, provincial immigration legislation, municipal charters, the Quebec Labour Code and the Educational Childcare Act. It would oblige businesses with more than 25 employees to operate in French (previously, the requirement applied only to companies with more than 50 employees). It would make it more difficult for Francophone students to attend English colleges. And it would make it harder for municipalities whose anglophone population falls below 50% to continue providing services in both languages.”
This is an unambiguous effort to drive Anglophones out of Quebec, along with anyone else who has had the misfortune to not be born a native Quebec Francophone.
This clear effort at playing ethnic wedge politics is a bit rich given it is the Parti Quebecois who are waltzing around comparing the rest of Canada to Nazis.
Now that the Quebec Government has set about cleansing itself of English businesses, it has moved on to Anglophone Universities, with budget cuts which do not apply to Francophone Universities. Education cuts can be debated without rancour in mature forums, but when the cuts apply only to Anglo establishments and not Franco ones, it gets beyond the pale.
These cuts are especially interesting given these evil Anglo institutions turn out role models so unfit for Quebec society that they became Parti Quebecois Cabinet Ministers.
This is on top of cuts which target primary/elementary schools, so that Quebec can remove such treasonous troublemakers as children of returned Canadian soldiers.
These attacks on Anglophones even stirred concern among a minority of the Francophone population, who believed the cuts had gone too far.
That minority was then, however, and this is now. Even just a few weeks down the track.
Now it is an invasion of Italian restaurants which has the Quebec Stasi up in arms, for daring to publish the word ‘pasta’.
I kid you not. PASTA is now the target of the Quebec language police.
This expose of the neo-fascist enforcement of language laws has divided the hardcore sovereigntists in Quebec. On the one hand, some are saying they will ‘review’ the enforcement procedures, while others complain it is more Quebec bashing.
Finally, perhaps finally, the may be an opportunity for reason to prevail in this debate. Oh, yes, I do get the irony of wanting reason to prevail in a debate of language identity when issues such as health, education, law and order and the economy take a back seat for the duration of the journey.
Quebec has often set itself up as the protector of all that is good about the French presence in Canada, and to hell with anyone who gets in their way.
For many years non-Francophones have been complaining about how they have been getting so badly screwed.
Well, some Anglophones won’t have to fear that any more given that the Office québécois de la langue française have now targeted sex aids for the wrath of the language police. Yes, if you want to drop your pants and do what comes naturally, Quebec’s language police want to have a word with you first.
For such an embarrassing overreach of Government authority, is it any wonder when people compare Quebec to a socialist dictatorship?
From education to food to your bedroom, there isn’t a place that Quebec’s language cops won’t go to ensure your cultural and linguistic purity.
Keith Topolski is a regular contributor to Menzies House, with a particular focus on Canadian politics.