Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bill 103 Suffers from Loneliness

Nobody but nobody likes the effort to reform Quebec's education laws to comply with a Canadian Supreme Court ruling yet deny most folks language choice.  Yep, that is what the Quebec government must do--thread the narrow passage between the Scylla of unconstitutional legislation and the Charybdis of French nationalism.  The Court had crushed the "fix" made earlier--just after I took my job here at McGill and before we moved in--that an immigrant sending a kid to private English school would then be eligible for the public English system.

The Parti Quebecois and its fellow travelers including the union representing CEGEP students [those in the unique post-high school, pre-university free two years of junior/vocational/whatever education), a member of the New Democratic Party (essentially betraying its ideology to pander to French nationalism), among others have spoke up at hearings and filed briefs saying that French is in danger and the changes here do not go far enough.  What they want is to prevent any and all immigrants from going to any and all English schools, including unsubsidized private ones.  Right now, people can send their kids to unsubsidized private ones, as my family does. 

The sovereignist "intellectuals," whose brief was presented by former PQ MNA Gilbert Paquette, argued that the government measure is based on false premises. It maintained that contrary to government assertions, applying Bill 101 access rules to all schools in Quebec, including unsubsidized ones, does not violate any universal rights recognized by the United Nations or even the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that there would be no need to invoke the notwithstanding clause.
Well, this "intellectuals" are, well, idiots, since the very fact that the Supreme Court has already ruled against the prior bill indicates that the Charter applies and that there would be a need to invoke the notwithstanding clause (which allows a province or the Federal government to say that the Charter and Supreme Court are not relevant--with a simple majority vote).*

The English associations are opposed to Bill 103 because it really does not provide much real access to English public schools, which have been in decline for some time now thanks to Bill 101 and the flight of many Anglophones in and around 1995.

So, who likes this bill?  Um, no one.  I am sure the party in power, the provincial Liberals, would have much preferred for there to be no Supreme Court ruling that forced a response.  The Liberals would prefer to sell out the Anglophone minority (who have no other party that can really claim their votes) quietly rather than loudly.  Instead, they are forced to try to pass a bill that antagonizes everyone. 

*  Does this mean that my bet with Jacob Levy is still on?  Hmm, I will wait until the deadline made by the Court is up and this legislation passes to call it.


Sam said...

A little late on this one, but you might be interested in another solution proposed by Louis Bernard (former chief of staff to René Lévesque).

He criticizes both the Liberal solution (Bill 103 and its almost-guaranteed jumble of questionnaires) and the PQ solution (extending Bill 101 to unsubsidized schools), suggesting another path that he feels is more in line with the spirit of the "father" of Bill 101, Camille Laurin who advocated a certain "free space."

The freedom in question was that of paying to educate your child in an unsubsidized school of your choice, in the language of your choice. Bernard wants to keep the schools, but wants parents to agree (essentially, to swear) to keep their children in the school for the duration of their studies, with the only possible exception being serious financial hardship.

At first glance, it seems to fair to me. A declaration stating that your child will attend the unsubsidized school you have chosen for the duration of his/her studies makes you legally responsible if you choose to send him/her to a subsidized English school (well, it blocks your access to it.) It has the double effect of invalidating the notion of a "bridging" school without limiting access to English education for those with the means to pay for it.

It would also eliminate the possible creation of bridging-specific schools that function at minimum budget and cost to parents for the specific purpose of allowing them to send their children into the English public sector (or subsidized private sector) later on. In some sense there is a parallel to the idea of "authenticity" advocated by the Liberals, without the bureaucratic and judicial nightmares that would arise when attempting to devise suitable questionnaires for establishing what a "parcours authentique" is.

Bernard seems optimistic about the chances of such a measure at the Supreme Court, though I'm not convinced of this yet. I'm unfamiliar with the exact text and provisions of Bill 104 that originally attempted to outlaw bridging schools, so I'm not sure if this falls under the same category, but it's an interesting idea nonetheless.

Jacob T. Levy said...

What's the violation of NDP principle? As socialists, they don't approve of private systems competing with public ones, or with wealthy people having the ability to buy their way around public goals.

I'm not trying to be snarky; I really don't see what you think the conflict is. The NDP aren't liberals, they're socialists.

Francois Caron said...

The day you'll simulate yourself as a unilingual quebecer, you'll better see our point of view.

This a patch over a patch, over a patch, etc.
Solving this non-sense issue within Canada will never be. USA will ended up resolving *major* of its issues doing the same - spliting. United - no way!

If English second language was teached more intensive, and better, there would be nothing to talk about on bill 104 or 103. And we would be still speaking french at home, rich or not.

In America, money is king. In Quebec, the principle of equality really goes beyond, even if it reduces some liberty. Anyway, as ever before, if anyone is not happy, he's got the whole north-america to live!

Scandinavia countries did it, they master english as much as they want, and if they don't like it, they become American.