The Co-Existence of French and English in Québec
by Laura-Camille on February 12, 2017 - 10:05pm
Patrice Bergeron wrote an article for La Presse, a francophone journal, entitled ‘’Le Québec peut aussi parler au monde en Anglais, dit Lisée’’*. This article was published on February 1, 2017, and the following is a summary of Bergeron’s text (http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/politique/politique-quebecoise/201702/01/01-5065293-le-quebec-peut-aussi-parler-au-monde-en-anglais-dit-lisee.php).
Following the terrorist attack in a mosque in Quebec City, the Prime Minister Phillipe Couillard made a declaration about the event in both French and English. This declaration was broadcasted on multiple television stations, including CNN, an American network. Although the declaration was of same length in both languages, the Prime Minister received some criticism from French-Canadians who argued that Québec’s only official language was French and that the Prime Minister should have consequently spoken only in French.
Against all odds, Jean-François Lisée, leader of the Parti Québécois, took Couillard’s defense. The Parti Québécois having the reputation of being sovereignist, most would not have predicted such a stance on the issue. Lisée argued that although French should be prioritized in Quebec, we must be realistic. He states: ‘’If we want to be on CNN and that we want everyone to understand what we are saying, and that we speak English well, why not?’’ (my translation). Yet, he still believes that when the Prime Minister travels to other countries, he should speak French as it is the language that represents our province. Furthermore, in international meetings or conferences, there are translators present.
Since La Presse is a French journal, it would be predictable for it to have a bias when it comes to the clash between the French and English languages in Quebec. This is the reason why Bergeron’s article was pleasantly surprising; It was as neutral as it could possibly be. Being a French-Canadian, I value my culture and believe in the importance of protecting the French language. However, I also believe that both English and French can co-exist, and that this co-existence is in fact necessary. Certain sovereignists, which I have in my own fully French-Canadian family, still hold the discourse that the province of Québec could be well-off with the smallest presence of English possible. Today, the international relations depend on the English language and if we want to evolve, we must embrace the bilingual state of our province.
Recently, the Federal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced criticism for refusing to answer a question in English at an event in Sherbrooke, QC, and mostly French-speaking city. Upon reflection, he admitted that he should have answered partly in French, partly in English, as English-speaking Quebecers are an increasing population in the province. To read more on this story consult the following article by the National Observer, published on January 19, 2017: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2017/01/19/news/complaints-filed-over-trudeaus-use-english-and-french-canadian-tour
The fact that both Phillipe Couillard and Jean-François Lisée defend and support the importance of English in Quebec suggests that the ever-lasting battle of French and English in Quebec may one day become less tense. If both English-speaking and French-speaking Quebecers respect one another’s culture, we may be able to co-exist peacefully.
*Translation: ‘’Quebec can also talk to people in English, says Lisée’’. (my translation)