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Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Nov 29 14:08:53 EST 2018

-- The English-Canadian media's selective outrage on bilingualism
The Canadian Press <https://nationalpost.com/author/canadianpressnp>
David Webster, Associate Professor of History, Bishop's University

November 28, 2018
8:58 AM EST

Last Updated
November 28, 2018
8:59 AM EST
Filed under The English-Canadian media's selective outrage on bilingualism
The Canadian Press <https://nationalpost.com/author/canadianpressnp>
David Webster, Associate Professor of History, Bishop's University

November 28, 2018
8:58 AM EST

Last Updated
November 28, 2018
8:59 AM EST
Filed under

   - PMN News

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent
and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic
experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


*Author: David Webster, Associate Professor of History, Bishop’s University*

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 Quebec.

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 Quebec 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 — Quebec’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.

As La Presse columnist Patrick Lagace wrote — in English — that’s barely a
fraction of the coverage given to the silliness of the “pastagate” story in
2013, in which an inspector from Quebec’s French-language watchdog
criticized the use of the word “pasta” in a Montreal 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 Quebecois motion in
Quebec’s National Assembly that criticized the ubiquitous greeting

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 Quebec’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, Quebec language policy serves as an “external enemy” for
English-speaking media. Mocking the periodic outbreaks of Quebec
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.

Quebec’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 Quebec south of Montreal, 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 Quebec*

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

Outside Quebec, 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.)

Quebec’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 Francois
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 version
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
Quebec, chastened by recent declines in their public support, who might
want to crack down on the anglophone minority.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons
license. Disclosure information is available on the original site. Read the
original article:


 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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