The English language isn’t in danger in Quebec, nor anyplace in North America or, for that matter, the world. Nonetheless, given the present political local weather, Quebec’s English-speaking neighborhood — our companies and establishments particularly — are very a lot underneath menace.
Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel, who can also be chargeable for Canadian Relations and the Canadian Francophonie, just lately weighed in on this theme. Throughout an interview concerning the modernization of Canada’s Official Languages Act, she stated: “French is the only minority official language in Canada.” True sufficient on a nationwide scale. However, sadly, this constitutes a direct assault on the federally acknowledged standing of Quebec’s English-speaking minority.
Official-language minority communities in every province and territory discover themselves in numerous conditions. In New Brunswick, 40 per cent of the inhabitants is French talking whereas in Alberta and British Columbia, the proportion is within the very low single digits. Every minority neighborhood faces very completely different challenges.
At 13 per cent of Quebec’s inhabitants, 1.05 million folks, we’re by far Canada’s largest official-language minority neighborhood. Solely in New Brunswick is the minority-language neighborhood proportionally bigger when put next with the bulk. Traditionally, English-speaking Quebecers financed and constructed our personal medical, instructional, cultural and social infrastructures. It is just due to these contributions that we’re the most effective served linguistic minority in Canada. These have developed into bilingual establishments that serve all Quebecers.
Since lengthy earlier than Confederation, English-speaking Quebecers have totally and enthusiastically contributed to the political and financial lifetime of this province. Considered one of Quebec’s premium strengths is that it isn’t a monoculture. Quebec’s English-language capability is an asset, whether or not it’s Arcade Hearth and the Plateau alt-rock scene or the power of our synthetic intelligence start-ups to speak simply whereas collaborating with innovators in California and throughout the planet.
But our neighborhood is at severe danger. Management and administration of our faculties is underneath elevated menace. Ensures for entry to well being and social companies in our personal language are compromised. Authorities companies in English at the moment are endangered by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) authorities, which is making an attempt to redefine and limit our rights to a weird assemble that has been labelled the “Historic Anglophone neighborhood.”
Our neighborhood is in disaster. We face a complete record of existential threats. Training, well being care, authorities companies — these are the very lifeblood of our neighborhood and they’re in jeopardy. Now, plans to harden the Constitution of the French Language threaten to destabilize the uneasy social contract underneath which now we have managed to stay for the previous two generations.
And amid these perils, LeBel floats the suggestion that linguistic duality be gutted of all of its that means. The federal authorities’s dedication to backstop official language minorities in each area of Canada is the one bulwark of assist and sources on which our neighborhood has relied for the previous half century. Duality requires two communities. What LeBel’s assertion suggests is that federal coverage be retuned to exclude and orphan the English-speaking neighborhood of Quebec.
This can’t be dismissed as an informal comment. Except it’s corrected or retracted, we should consider this assertion within the context of sequence of clearly expressed CAQ public coverage initiatives that already compromise our rights in schooling, well being and social companies, authorities companies and extra.
Canada couldn’t lengthy survive a pact underneath which francophone communities in the remainder of Canada take pleasure in a federal regime of assist and truthful therapy, whereas English-speaking Quebec is left by itself to deal with an unsympathetic provincial authorities. We name upon all our allies — significantly these within the Parliament of Canada — to talk out in opposition to the hazards that lurk behind LeBel’s declaration.
Geoffrey Chambers is president of the Quebec Neighborhood Teams Community.