When Nationalism Becomes Poison and Paranoia

by PHayes on February 10, 2015 - 12:38am

For some time still, none of us will be able to witness some sort of harmony between French and English in the streets of Quebec. The supremacy of the French language will remain and continue to oppress diversity in this province, as well as bar it from attaining greater progress and prosperity.

On Wednesday, January 28th, Court of Quebec judge Salvatore Mascia upheld the controversial Bill 101 on top of the fines given to some merchants by the language police for displaying bilingual signage that did not show French predominance or for simply having some English lettering. The judge argued that Bill 101, which ensures regulation of a Quebec with a greater French character than a few decades ago, is the reason for improvements that have been made over the years and that the law “should not be made ‘a victim of its own success’”. The defence in this case tried to prove that the majority language is no longer under threat and that parts of the law put exaggerated limits on freedom of expression. The prosecution, however, said that a low birthrate and a large influx of immigrants still poses a threat to the province’s identity. The judge finally said that French is a ‘‘fringe language’’ in North America and still needed to be protected with Bill 101.

What I believe should be improved is the tense relations between the Anglophone and Francophone communities in Quebec as well as the way the government treats its English-speaking minority. Laws like Bill 101 need to be loosened or at least made a little fairer for everyone. People should stop being told and believing that the majority language is in clear danger of extinction on this continent because it is not. Since 1971, the number of francophones in the province has remained over eighty percent, while the number of Anglophones has steadily dropped. Moreover, French already has a significant presence outside of Quebec, especially in New-Brunswick where about 40 percent of its population speaking it, and is making a slow resurgence in places like Maine and Louisiana.

As a bilingual francophone, I can offer an interesting perspective because I am part of that somewhat paranoid French-speaking community as well as an observer in a community being constantly repressed. As an example of that, I only need to go back a few months. At my former high school, speaking in English could land you in detention. I could obviously manage without it, but many of my Anglophone friends couldn’t and it was very unfair and a perfect example of repressed free expression. Teachers, hall monitors and principals could only find one reason to justify it: ‘‘This is a French school’’.

This idea that since Quebec has a French character, everything should be in French and that it is bad for English to have a presence is bad because it creates a dangerous form of ethnic nationalism and fails to bring everyone together as one, alienating bilinguals and non-francophones in the process.

Original article: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/quebec-court-upholds-bill-101
Author: Marian Scott
Publication: Montreal Gazette
Date: January 28th 2015

Comments

I appreciated reading your article and I do agree with your opinion that the laws of bill 101 should be loosened and that the relationship among English and French speaking individuals should become better. As a person living in Quebec who speaks both English and French I can say that there are people who judge my friends and I for speaking in English. I’ve personally had people come up to me and tell me that we are in Quebec and that in Quebec we only speak French when I spoke to someone in English. I’ve also had teachers judge my family and I when we were trying to speak in French saying it was not good enough because we spoke with an accent. I believe that people should be able to speak whatever language they would like and we should not be judged for doing so. Being bilingual should not be seen as a horrible thing it should be seen as an advantage.