Two wrongs don’t make a right
Quebec French speakers know how unfair it feels not to be served in their preferred language when they move out of Quebec, so why is the province doing the same to English speakers within its borders?
Neither situation is right. Canada is a bilingual country. People – whether they prefer speaking French or English – should have access to health, financial, legal, and educational services in the language of their choice.
Quebec’s draft Bill 96 takes that choice away from some people in Quebec’s English-speaking community, which has deep roots in the Gatineau Hills.
Cognitive dissonance marks the rhetoric and discussion about Bill 96. When The Low Down’s coverage on the bill and its possible effects are shared on social media the comment sections usually descend into chaos. People point out that Bill 96 will treat Anglos in Quebec similar to how Francophones outside of Quebec are treated.
Pointing out the injustices and inequality that French speakers can face outside of Quebec doesn’t justify imposing that same reality on English speakers in Quebec.
French services need to be improved across the board across Canada just like English services need to be improved across the board across Quebec.
Sure, it’s easy for me to sit at my desk and type about my utopian vision of language services parity but this province shouldn’t stop offering people services in their choice of national official languages. Especially when Quebecois who move out of this province for better job opportunities and lower taxes call for the same thing.
French speakers struggling to understand their Alberta tax bill, or their British Columbia speeding ticket, or to enroll their children in a Manitoban French immersion school are experiencing today what life for English speakers in Quebec will become if Bill 96 is passed as it was tabled this past May. Readers should know that our local Gatineau MNA Robert Bussière supports the bill.
This bill is being marketed as a way to save the French language and culture of Quebec, a noble and worthy cause indeed. But it’s been drafted with heavy-handed, broad strokes that paint over the English culture that has existed here for generations. French Quebec culture is important and beautiful because it has taken shape as an island surrounded by an English sea. Both English and French Quebec cultures are worth preserving.
But here we are preaching to the choir. An English-speaking writer at an English paper that’s read mostly by English Quebecers. English Quebecers need the help of their French counterparts to help improve this bill so that it preserves the French language while not infringing on the rights of Anglos. Similar to how French speakers in other provinces need the support and advocacy of English speakers to get services in their preferred language.
English Quebecers and French speakers outside of Quebec want the same thing. Let’s push for more access to French services and educational opportunities across the country while pushing for more English services and educational opportunities in Quebec. Let’s join forces.