Friday, March 16, 2012

Tyranny of the Majority? In Quebec?

While my family was experiencing the magic of Harry Potter in Orlando, a tale of what happens when a group tries to purify its "nation", interesting events were stirring back in Quebec.  Apparently, the language police got upset at the city of Huntington for daring to issue its communiques in French AND English.  Municipalities are only supposed to do that if the community is majority Anglophone, but Huntington is only 44% Anglophone apparently.  So, once you slip below 50% (if you speak English, not if you speak French), you lose your ability to communicate with your local government.

When I speak of tyranny of the majority, it is usually a lot more metaphorical than this.  In this case, being a minority means the government does not have to communicate with you.  Sure, there are plenty of places where governments do not try to communicate with their linguistic minorities, but the strange thing here is that the local governments wants to keep communicating with all of its residents and the provincial government is the one restricting it.  Non! Quebec says to Huntington.

Ah, but the story gets better.  Sort of.  Stéphane Gendron, the mayor of Huntington, is innovating so that Quebec cannot (well, we shall see) stop his town from communicating to all of its residents.  The innovation:
Over the next few days, the Town Council will be setting up an independent newspaper with a not-for-profit mission that will provide bilingual information from the town to its residents. The corporation, led by a group of committed residents, will ensure the dissemination of relevant information to the community, for and on behalf of the town and various community organizations in our region.
Because Bill 101 does not apply to such an organization, we will circumvent its application on our territory and continue to serve our people, as they should be served, in both official languages. Debate at the council meetings will continue to be in both languages, and our citizens will still be served in the language of their choice at the reception desk and through our different departments. And the council will be able to get back to the business of focusing peacefully on the development of our town.
The rest of the Mayor's letter is also pretty sharp, so check it out.  Unfortunately, this guy and this town is facing a heap of outside resistance, including vandalism and threats of violence.  Because he dares to serve a minority in his community.  
I have spewed before about what I fear would happen in an independent Quebec--that with the separatist issue no longer relevant, the nationalists would need other causes célèbre to try to whip up support.  They would need new bêtes noire. Such as Jews or Muslims or other minorities.  Even now some are playing up Halal as a great threat to Quebec.


J.Collins said...

That is some clever legalese on the part of the mayor. Kudos to him for standing up to the Bill 101 bullies. The recent anti-halal brouhaha is rather unnerving, especially given the fact that Ms Le-Pen's National Front were, if not the originators of the halal fearmongering than at least one of the most vocal proponents of it. Funny how that fact is not considered against QC "values"!

Steve Saideman said...

yes, the Halal campaign is, indeed, plagiarized from Le Pen. But stealing xenophobia from France is actually a two-fer for a Quebec nationalist party: imitating the homeland and being xenophobic!