[lg policy] Lise Ravary: The travails of an honest bridge-builder

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Nov 27 11:08:40 EST 2018


Lise Ravary: The travails of an honest bridge-builder
[image: Lise Ravary, Special to Montreal Gazette] Lise Ravary, Special to
Montreal Gazette More from Lise Ravary, Special to Montreal Gazette
<https://theprovince.com/author/lise-ravary-special-to-montreal-gazette>

*Published:* November 26, 2018

*Updated:* November 26, 2018 11:48 AM PST

*Filed Under:*

   - The Province <https://theprovince.com>
   - Opinion <https://theprovince.com/category/opinion>
   - Columnists <https://theprovince.com/category/opinion/columnists>


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[image: A quote from Camille Laurin, in the Edifice Camille Laurin, named
after the father of Bill 101, on the importance of language to national
identity: The need for language laws may be "harder for some
English-speakers to understand, because their language and North American
culture are not in danger of disappearing," Lise Ravary writes.]

A quote from Camille Laurin, in the Edifice Camille Laurin, named after the
father of Bill 101, on the importance of language to national identity: The
need for language laws may be "harder for some English-speakers to
understand, because their language and North American culture are not in
danger of disappearing," Lise Ravary writes. John Mahoney / Montreal
Gazette files
After last week's column, comments from some readers were truly hurtful and
showed, well, they and I are just not speaking the same language.

The slow reactions, or lack thereof, to the Doug Ford government’s decision
— now partly reversed — to eliminate the office of the French Language
Commissioner and kill the projected French university, by media outside
Quebec surprised me. After all, they had been quick to condemn Pastagate
and other examples of “oppression” against those Québécois whose first
language is English.

Here in Quebec, the Montreal Gazette must be commended for taking an
unequivocal stand of solidarity with Franco-Ontarians
<https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-standing-in-solidarity-with-franco-ontarians>
(Editorial, Nov. 17). And Josh Freed should be thanked for his brilliant
column, “Anglo Quebecers are déçu with you, Doug Ford
<https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/josh-freed-anglo-quebecers-are-decu-with-you-doug-ford>”
(Montreal Gazette, Nov. 24). But after my column last week, (“Francophones
aren’t ‘just another community’,
<https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/lise-ravary-francophones-arent-just-another-community>”
Nov. 20), I got comments from some readers that were truly hurtful and
showed that on some key issues, well, they and I are just not speaking the
same language.

One trope was the unfair accusation that Quebecers are intolerant of
minorities.

I am sick and tired of having to point out that Quebecers have been
welcoming to immigrants over the centuries, from British Loyalists to
Syrian refugees and everybody in between, Vietnamese boat people, Haitians
fleeing oppression and poverty, Poles, Italians, Hungarians in 1956, etc.

Yes, against the backdrop of international terrorism, some ignorant people
have issues with Muslim immigration, but Quebec is hardly the only place in
the world where that’s happening.

I am also sick and tired of the suggestion that claiming a national
identity is proof of intolerance. Quebec may not be a country, but it is a
nation. A Kurdish nation survives despite the absence of a Kurdish state.
Stephen Harper understood that.

I’m also sick and tired of explaining to those with short memories that
McGill University imposed quotas on Jewish students from 1920 until the
1960s. The Université of Montréal’s law school, founded in 1891, never had
Jewish quotas.

And please stop reminding me over and over about Jacques Parizeau’s
despicable comment the night of the 1995 referendum. Francophones were
mightily upset with him too, trust me.

   - Josh Freed: Anglo Quebecers are déçu with you, Doug Ford
   <https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/josh-freed-anglo-quebecers-are-decu-with-you-doug-ford>
   - Editorial: Standing in solidarity with Franco-Ontarians
   <https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-standing-in-solidarity-with-franco-ontarians>
   - Lise Ravary: Francophones aren’t ‘just another community’
   <https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/lise-ravary-francophones-arent-just-another-community>

Do I hear language laws? Come on, are unilingual French road signs really a
manifestation of intolerance? The long list of countries with language
policy includes South Africa, Algeria, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Israel,
Colombia, Spain, Britain, India, Italy, Norway … need I go on? Even tiny
Luxembourg and Andorra have language laws. Always, the objective is to
protect a language and cultural diversity. Perhaps that’s harder for some
English-speakers to understand, because their language and North American
culture are not in danger of disappearing.

The first highlight of Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census in Brief webpage on
official language minorities
<https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016011/98-200-x2016011-eng.cfm>
states that there has been a decline in French as a mother tongue and a
language spoken at home in Canada.

The majority of the Québécois whose first language is English do understand
the need for Quebec to put up protective fences around the French-language.
And even someone as squarely in the federalist camp as Stéphane Dion
understood the need for Bill 101. But some, on both sides of the language
divide, prefer to marinate in resentment.

It’s not personal. Quebec anglophones do not pose a threat to the survival
of French. It is a question of numbers and geography — the 6.9 million
Québécois who have French as their first language are surrounded by 30
million anglophone Canadians and 300 million Americans. Did somebody say
“pressure”?

I am sick and tired of having to point all this out.

We are all somebody’s minority. The loses incurred by one group have
repercussions on everybody else. Same thing for the gains.

Being an opinion writer in the digital age has its pitfalls. Comments come
through unfiltered. Some people call me a bigot or intolerant or even
racist when all I want to be is a bridge builder. To understand each other,
we have to be honest. That’s all I am trying to do.

lravary at yahoo.com

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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