[lg policy] Canada: Advice on language takes a hard line

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 10 15:05:07 UTC 2010

Advice on language takes a hard line

The GazetteMarch 5, 2010

The Conseil supérieur de la langue française exists to give advice, in
its superior way, to Quebec's minister for language. Yesterday, the
Conseil gave some remarkably bad advice about Bill 104. That's the
legislation that closed off an avenue into English schools via one
year of un-subsidized private schooling. The Supreme Court of Canada
threw the law out last October.

The Conseil declares that Quebec should further restrict educational
freedom by slamming the door on the last vestige of language choice,
not only for anglophones and allophones but also for francophones:
Clauses of the Charter of the French Language that apply to public
schools, and to the numerous "private" schools that get 60 per cent of
their funding from the government, should be extended to fully private
schools as well. Further, there should be no more consideration of
individual cases - such as those involving students with learning
disabilities - because these might interfere with "the general
principles of the language policy of the Quebec state."

This report is steeped in that kind of absolutism. Robert Bourassa
notoriously boasted that Quebec had "suspended fundamental rights" on
language; his spirit lives on at the Conseil, which evokes the looming
menace of "social deconstruction" if parents can choose for their

The Conseil also suggests seriously that the Supreme Court has no
business telling Quebec legislators what's legitimate.

The report gives lip service to the notion that it is politicians who
must decide what to do about Bill 104, but the Conseil must be aware
that their hard line provides a big nail-studded club that language
hard-liners can brandish at the government. Not that one is needed:
Justice Minister Kathleen Weil has already demonstrated that she is
more loyal to her party than to the polyglot people of Notre Dame de
Grâce who elected her, signalling in December that she's ready to
restrict further choice.

The Conseil even meddles so deeply in politics as to call on the
National Assembly to be unanimous on such issues. God help any
anglophone (or other) MNA who might still believe that "rights are
rights are rights." But, of course, there are no such MNAs today.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/Advice+language+takes+hard+line/2643385/story.html#ixzz0hmodkZyX

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