Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Incoming! Quebec Language Education Reform Due Soon

Apparently, the big decision about how the Quebec government is going to respond to the Supreme Court's decision regarding bill 104 (that eliminated one loophole to access English education in Quebec) must be put forth this week in order to get through the National Assembly by the end of its current term.  As it turns out, my previous post on this, entitled Tyranny of the Majority, may no longer be appropriate.  Today's Gazette reports a survey that not only do a majority of Quebecers favor unfettered access to education in the language of one's choice (well, English or French), but the majority of Francophones do so as well--more than sixty percent do so.

Yes, it may have been different if the wording had focused on protecting French rather than preferring freedom.  But the folks who vote for the Provincial Liberals are certainly in this sixty percent and probably only some of them would change their views if the wording changed. This might give the governing party some more spine to do the right thing.  The Parti Quebec wants the notwithstanding clause invoked as this would be the most blunt assertion of Quebec's power. 

What are the stakes here?  Besides my daughter's future, it may also decide whether we end up living in Ontario or northernmost New York.  More importantly, I have a bet with a colleague.  If the NW clause is invoked, he must lecture to my big Intro to IR class next fall for five minutes in Klingon.  If not, then I must lecture to my class for five minutes in French

The compromise being floated might allow those kids with parents educated in English anywhere in the world (or at least in the US and UK) to be allowed to get their education in English whereas the current law only allows those educated in English in Canada to send their kids to English schools.  I forget how it currently works for kids whose parents are one of each--one Anglophone and one Francophone.

The same survey prefers the status quo for the next level of education--CEGEP, which is a system unique to Quebec replacing 12th grade and the first year of university.  On this, the polls register eighty percent or more in favor of allowing people to pick a CEGEP regardless of their language status (most CEGEPs are Francophone but some are Anglophone).  The Parti Quebecois has been pushing for making CEGEPs like K-11 (and also day care, which would be harder still since they are not formally Anglo or Franco). 

Anyhow, we are very much anxious as we wait for the other shoe to drop.  If it drops the wrong way, we may have to move.  If it drops the right way, we can chill for a bit.  Still not looking forward to the next PQ government, which the Liberals seem to be bent on assuring. 


Brandon Valeriano said...

Damn immigrants and their languages. How does it feel to be the Mexicans of Canada?

Tony Kondaks said...

"The compromise being floated", as Mr. Saideman writes, is one I have only seen in a Gazette editorial from the other day; if it comes from someone else, I don't know who has floated it around. But it's a most curious one on the part of the Gazette: immediately concede the demand for full freedom of choice -- which a majority of francophones polled want -- and, with hat in hand, meekly request a pittance. Don't stand up for francophones' rights to better the lives of their own children as they see fit but, instead, only lighten restrictions on access by eliminating Bill 104 -- which the Supreme Court has said must occur anyway -- and allow only British and American English-speakers to attend English schools. And to hell with Jamaicans, the Caribbean, and the rest of the English-speaking world.

Note that this is a step backwards from the Gazette's decades long stance that all immigrants from all English speaking countries have access to English schools.

On the heels of what is arguably the most significant poll ever conducted on language since the adoption of Bill 101 33 years ago, the Gazette gives with one hand as it quickly takes away with the other. Taking its cue from the Seinfeld episode in which George negotiates an offer for a pilot he and Jerry have written for NBC from $13,000 down to $8,000, the Gazette Editorial Board holds out for less not more. As Jerry told George: "This is how they negotiate in the bizarro world."

Mr. Saideman says he forgets "how it currently works for kids whose parents are one of each--one Anglophone and one Francophone."

Actually, the procedure for determining your righs in this matter, Mr. Saideman, has nothing to do with what language either parent speaks. The determination of which civil rights category you belong to depends upon who your parents are and what their classification is.