[lg policy] Montreal: Even trivial language complaints are making the news
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Sat Nov 26 15:22:47 UTC 2011
Macpherson: Even trivial language complaints are making the news
By Don Macpherson, Montreal Gazette November 25, 2011
MONTREAL - No reader’s complaint about language, it seems, is too
petty to be published on the editorial page of Le Devoir. Last Monday,
it was an open letter about the new report card of the Commission
scolaire de Montréal. On it, the mark for English as a second language
appeared above the one for French as the basic language of teaching.
To one teacher for the CSDM, Quebec’s largest French-language board,
this somehow sent a message to immigrant parents required by Bill 101
to send their children to French schools that learning French is not
as important as learning English. This put the CSDM in the
embarrassing position of having to explain publicly to one of its
teachers that A for “anglais” comes before F for “français” in the
alphabet, while promising to “correct the anomaly” (in the report
cards, not the alphabet).
But by then, the teacher’s complaint had been picked up by the Presse
Canadienne news agency and reported on such popular news sites as
those of Radio-Canada and La Presse. That one teacher’s trivial
complaint should be considered newsworthy is a sign of a new
sensitivity to language issues on the part of the media and opinion
leaders in French Quebec.
It stems from an accumulation of recent developments creating a
perception that French is no longer gaining ground, but rather losing
it, in Quebec as well as Canada and especially in Montreal. First, the
Harper government appointed unilingual anglophones to the Supreme
Court of Canada and as federal auditor general.
Then, last week, it was disclosed that employees of a subsidiary of
the Caisse de dépôt, which manages Quebec’s public pension funds, had
complained because they had to communicate in English with
Montreal-based bosses who are unilingual anglophones.
This incident was all the more symbolic because the Caisse is a
creation of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in the 1960s and a symbol of
francophone economic power. The CSDM announced this week that,
starting next school year, it will phase in a policy forbidding pupils
from speaking languages other than French anywhere at school outside
Thanks to Bill 101, a majority of the board’s pupils now have mother
tongues other than French. The purpose of the policy is to make them
practise their French. Also this week, popular television personality
Guy A. Lepage complained that Montreal businesses don’t respect
French-speaking customers, and said “it should be an obligation for
everybody to speak the same common language.”
As gratifying as such proposals might be to francophones, however,
they’re impractical and unenforceable.
The CSDM’s new policy would forbid a newly arrived immigrant child
from communicating with a sibling or friend in the only language he or
she speaks. Some critics said it would turn French schools into
“prisons” for immigrant children, and make them resent having to learn
And Lepage’s suggestion of an “obligation for everybody” to speak
French, taken literally, would forbid anyone who doesn’t speak French
from holding a job or even speaking another language. What could be a
more effective course of action was suggested in another open letter
in Le Devoir. Publisher and author Alain Stanké suggested that
French-speaking consumers simply stop patronizing businesses that
don’t respect their language, and tell them why. Eventually, he said,
those businesses would get the message from the marketplace.
But that would make individual francophones take responsibility for
the defence of their language.
It’s easier to vote for the Parti Québécois, which is promising to
toughen up Bill 101 – or complain to Le Devoir.
dmacpherson at montrealgazette.com
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Macpherson+Even+trivial+language+complaints+making+news/5769636/story.html#ixzz1epE1vFD7
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