[lg policy] The English-Canadian media’s selective outrage on bilingualism

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Nov 28 11:06:17 EST 2018

* The English-Canadian media’s selective outrage on bilingualism *
November 27, 2018 5.58pm EST
Québec Premier Francois Legault, left, exchanges hockey jerseys with
Ontario Premier Doug Ford at Queens Park, in Toronto on Nov. 19, 2018.
Ford’s recent cuts to francophone services in Ontario haven’t spawned
nearly the media outrage that Québec language moves have. (THE CANADIAN
PRESS/Chris Young)

   1. David Webster

   Associate Professor of History, Bishop's University

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Don’t get me wrong: It’s always nice to see folks in Ontario and the rest
of English-speaking Canada say a few words in support of the
English-speaking minority here in Québec.

But there are far more endangered, far more precarious, French-speaking
minorities in Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and all nine
majority-English provinces. In fact, those minority groups —
English-speaking in Québec and French-speaking in the rest of Canada — are
what make this country what it is.

There is a huge amount of work still to do on recognizing Indigenous rights
and fostering Indigenous languages, of course. Important work is happening
on that front, though the country has a long way to go. Maybe it’s time to
declare Indigenous languages to be official languages.

In the meantime, however, it’s worth protecting the minority official
language communities. But to read leading English-Canadian media, you would
think that only one of those communities — Québec’s anglophones — were
under threat.

Take the *Globe and Mail*, the country’s national newspaper. When Ontario
Premier Doug Ford recently slashed services to Ontario francophones and
axed plans for the province’s first French-language university, the Globe
ran a total of five articles by Nov. 21, according to a search of the
Canadian Newsstream database.
Buonanotte restaurant, at the heart of the ‘pastagate’ uproar, is shown in
Montréal in February 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

As *La Presse* columnist Patrick Lagacé wrote
<https://twitter.com/kick1972/status/1064843435847368704> — in English –
that’s barely a fraction of the coverage given to the silliness of the
story in 2013
in which an inspector from Québec’s French-language watchdog criticized the
use of the word “pasta” in a Montréal restaurant (the watchdog quickly
backed down and changed its rules). Canadian Newsstream finds 12 articles
in the Globe on “pastagate.”

The *Globe* also issued a stern editorial
against a Parti Québécois motion in Québec’s National Assembly that
criticized the ubiquitous greeting “bonjour-hi.”

The motion was misplaced, but was non-binding and has changed nothing. Was
it really — as the *Globe* editorialized — a call for the word “hi” to be
“killed with fire, its ashes buried in lye and the location forgotten?”
One op-ed in support of Ford’s cuts

This sort of hyperbole is too common in the English-Canadian press. The
*Globe* has so far issued no editorials against the Ford cuts to
francophone services — though it did run an opinion piece in support of
Ford’s move written by the president of Trent University

The *Globe*, of course, should not be singled out. A Postmedia editorial
published in the *Ottawa Citizen* and other newspapers, called the loss of
the position of French Language Services Commissioner “unfortunate” in the
eighth paragraph of a nine-paragraph editorial.

Otherwise, the newspaper database finds no editorial comment of any sort —
let alone the sort of scathing denunciation that descends when Québec’s
language laws make headlines in English. “Pastagate” was mentioned 311
times in the Canadian Newsstream index in 2013, the year it made headlines;
Ontario francophone services rate 96 mentions since Ford’s cuts were

In some ways, Québec language policy serves as an “external enemy”
<https://beautifultrouble.org/theory/the-propaganda-model/> for
English-speaking media. Mocking the periodic outbreaks of Québec
language-law foolishness sells papers — or in digital terms, poking fun at
pastagate is great clickbait. Criticizing the powerful in Ontario when they
attack minorities does not produce the same results.

Québec’s anglophone community has chided Ford. The English-language *Montreal
Gazette* criticized the francophone services cuts
The Townshippers’ Association, a group of anglophones in the Eastern
Townships region of Québec south of Montréal, pointed out that the cuts
were “a significant setback for the development and vitality not only of
Franco-Ontarians, but for minority language communities across the country
as well
Anglophone universities in Québec

Let’s not forget, however, that Québec’s anglophone community has spawned
three universities, and that the Québec government has made no moves to
shut down these minority-language universities — in fact, a revision to
Québec’s university funding formula this year helped Bishop’s University in
the Eastern Townships, where I teach history, more than any other
institution in Québec

Outside Québec, there is only one full French-language university, in
Moncton, N.B. (A few French-language colleges exist inside English-language
universities or in affiliation with colleges, and there are a handful of
bilingual institutions.)

Québec’s anglophones have fought to protect their institutions. When the
previous government led by Philippe Couillard announced plans to amalgamate
school boards, the English-speaking community mobilized to save
English-language school boards, successfully. It may need to fight the same
battle in the face of renewed plans by the new government under François
Legault to shutter local school boards
Protecting recent gains

Given this history, it’s no surprise that the Townshippers’ Association
announced its “solidarity with our French-speaking counterparts in Ontario”
as they mobilize to defend their own institutions and protect recent gains.

The Ford government’s cuts are not primarily about money, as a recent
article by French-speaking university professors
points out. Fiscal arguments are a “smokescreen” for a rejection of the
very concept of minority rights. (To its credit, the *Globe* reprinted
a translated
on Nov. 21.)

This is part of a renewed attack on the French in Canada by the rising
populist right, exemplified by Ford’s Ontario government and the New
Brunswick’s People’s Alliance, which props up the incoming New Brunswick
Conservative government.

Anti-Francophone sentiment is nothing new in Canada, as University of
Guelph historian Matthew Hayday has written

But it seems to be on the rise — and that will only empower those in
Québec, chastened by recent declines in their public support, who might
want to crack down on the anglophone minority.


 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

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