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  1. #1
    Senior Member Forever_Jung's Avatar
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    Default Quebec Language Laws and the Bernier Controversy

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/st...-bill-101.html

    If Conservative MP Maxime Bernier began by poking the bear, now he's jabbing it with a knife.

    The former federal cabinet minister was quickly excoriated by Quebec politicians and pundits after saying on Friday Quebecers don't need Bill 101, the province's landmark language legislation.

    Conservative MP Maxime Bernier says Quebec doesn't need Bill 101. (Canadian Press)
    But after the two-sentence throwaway remark to a Halifax radio station provoked a torrent of ridicule, Bernier responded defiantly Sunday with a 700-word statement on his personal blog.

    In a post in both English and French, Bernier explained his opposition to the law that, in Quebec, has been considered sacrosanct by the political class for more than three decades.

    The 1977 legislation, enacted under Premier Rene Levesque's Parti Québécois, limited English on commercial signs and restricted access to English public schools.

    Bernier, an ardent libertarian, said while it's important for Quebec to remain a predominantly French-language society, that shouldn't be achieved by restricting people's rights and freedom of choice.

    "French will survive if Quebecers cherish it and want to preserve it; it will flourish if Quebec becomes a freer, more dynamic and prosperous society," Bernier wrote. "Not by imposing [French] and by preventing people from making their own decisions in matters that concern their personal lives."

    Denounced by Quebec politicians

    The historic legislation has often been credited with saving the French language from decline in the province and is rarely criticized by politicians.

    'I did not expect to create such a storm by expressing my belief that we should let people act like free and responsible individuals...'—Conservative MP Maxime Bernier
    In one exception, three anglophone ministers resigned from Premier Robert Bourassa's cabinet in 1988 to protest a move that strengthened Quebec's language laws in response to a Supreme Court ruling that struck down portions of Bill 101.

    For the most part, though, Bill 101 has become as much a fixture in Quebec as the Canada Health Act and the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms have countrywide.

    But Bernier said not everyone agrees the law is necessary.

    "Whenever the issue of Bill 101 is raised, it is often claimed that 'there is a consensus in Quebec' about it: apart from some extremist English-rights activists and traitors to Quebec, everybody is presumed to agree with Bill 101… But that consensus simply does not exist," he wrote.

    Still, as Bernier's comments spread over the weekend, Quebec politicians and pundits lined up to denounce him and show their support for Bill 101.

    Parti Québécois Leader Pauline Marois suggested Bernier should "come to Montreal more often," where "anglicization is visible."

    Online name-calling

    Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre said everyone recognizes Bill 101 has "helped preserve the French language."

    Liberal MP Denis Coderre charged that Bernier's thoughts on language laws make "Sarah Palin look like an intellectual."

    The online blowback from many Quebec residents was even more venomous, with many on Twitter and other social media reduced to name-calling. In much of English Canada, however, Bernier's remarks were greeted as a breath of fresh air.

    "Good on Bernier … he was only saying what the majority of Canadians think," said one typical online comment.

    On his blog, Bernier expressed his disappointment at those who questioned his right to offer an opinion on the subject. "In a free and democratic society, we should be able to say these things and debate them calmly without being pilloried," he wrote.

    "I did not expect to create such a storm by expressing my belief that we should let people act like free and responsible individuals, including when it comes to protecting their language, instead of relying on government coercion to do it for them."

    © The Canadian Press, 2011
    Do you think what Bernier says deserves the controversy and attention it has been attracting? What do you think about Bill 101?

    I personally agree with Bernier, and the fact that he has been getting so much heat for expressing his opinion seems unwarranted. If the people of Quebec want to speak French, they can speak it. If they don't, then they shouldn't HAVE to. Why do they need a bill to force them to do something they supposedly want to do? Just to force the minority of people who don't want to speak French to conform? I must be missing something here.

  2. #2
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    I think he's spot on, pretty much. I agree with you.

    I just think Quebec is one of those societies which has ended up with a chip on its shoulder. Perhaps some heady blend of Canadian PC-ness, inferiority complex, and French-ness? Aren't they the only place in the world which has "ARRET" on their stop signs, or something?

    I think the above is an example of the "distinct society" thing being taken a bit too far. It's not like French is at risk of dying out in Quebec/Canada, unlike Irish Gaelic in Ireland or something.

    I grew up in BC. My dad is from Montreal, actually. But he is an English Montrealer and grew up in one of the rich English areas. He speaks French, at least to get by reasonably well, but I think he learned more in later life, like when he was a student in Europe. His friends and his family's friends would not have been French Canadians, at least not by and large - he said a lot of his friends growing up (this was in the 40s and 50s) were rich Jewish kids.

    Then there's the amusing fact that I did French immersion and so speak French quite fluently, though hardly like a native of any sort. I now live in Europe and have many more opportunities to use my French. So, people (especially the French!) get quite confused when I speak French to them. They're like "You're French Canadian." No. "But you must be from Quebec because you speak French and are Canadian." No...and I don't remotely have the Quebec accent! "And your dad is from Montreal? So he's French Canadian?" No...
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  3. #3
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    How is it dying out? Isn't it mandatory in Canada to be taking French in school now(outside of Quebec)? I ask because my little sister and brother were obligated to take it in Alberta.

    Canada is a dominantly English-Speaking country, "restricting" English in one of its provinces seems unfathomably idiotic and can possibly cause a lot of barriers between it's people, and thats not even considering a citizen's right's being restricted.

    Quebec seem's to forget that no matter how "French" they become, they're still a part of a whole( as much as they wish they weren't). They're part of a unit, like any other province.


    I wish I had the opportunity to learn French from childhood. Heck, I wish I had the opportunity to learn French all together.

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    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YWIR View Post
    How is it dying out? Isn't it mandatory in Canada to be taking French(outside of Quebec)? I ask because my little sister and brother were obligated to take it in Alberta.
    Yeah, I think in normal English-track schools everyone has to take at least a little bit. But not French immersion like I did - that's totally optional. From my experience most of the people who did English schooling with some French classes really could not speak French at all afterwards.

    But I don't see it at risk of "dying out". Quebec is a massive province and the majority of people there still have French as their first language. Plus some people in some other provinces. Basically, if you're a Canadian native English speaker the chances are you really only speak English. If French is your first language in Canada you probably speak English too, or at least a bit, but you can carry on your life in French in Quebec.

    It's just that to me, this kind of legislation makes it sound like they're afraid of French dying out in Quebec, or being totally marginalized. And I don't see how that would happen.
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  5. #5
    figsfiggyfigs
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    It's just that to me, this kind of legislation makes it sound like they're afraid of French dying out in Quebec, or being totally marginalized. And I don't see how that would happen.
    I honestly don't think it has anything to do with the fear of French dying out in Quebec. French laws ALL OVER Canada are getting more intense educationally, which is great. I think Quebec is just so set on being different, and segregating itself from the rest of Canada in any possible way, they'll do anything for it.

    They're the hipsters of provinces.

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    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YWIR View Post
    I honestly don't think it has anything to do with the fear of French dying out in Quebec. French laws ALL OVER Canada are getting more intense educationally, which is great. I think Quebec is just so set on being different, and segregating itself from the rest of Canada in any possible way, they'll do anything for it.

    They're the hipsters of provinces.
    Yeah, I guess you're right there. The hipsters of provinces, LOL.

    Where are you from?

    I am a huge fan of French immersion, btw, even though I have mixed feelings about Quebec's approach to things. Immersion sure worked well for me. Particularly now living in Europe, speaking French fluently has come in very handy. And I just love the language anyway!
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  7. #7
    figsfiggyfigs
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post

    I am a huge fan of French immersion, btw, even though I have mixed feelings about Quebec's approach to things. Immersion sure worked well for me. Particularly now living in Europe, speaking French fluently has come in very handy. And I just love the language anyway!
    Alberta, currently in sweden. It's such a pain in the ass when people ask me if I speak french. I hate it, because I always have to say "no", and see their face go from to

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    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YWIR View Post
    Alberta, currently in sweden. It's such a pain in the ass when people ask me if I speak french. I hate it, because I always have to say "no", and see their face go from to
    That's kind of surprising, actually. I would have thought most people would assume that most Canadians just speak English. I could be wrong though. Sometimes when I tell people I speak French, or I speak French to them, they say "oh, of course you speak French...you're Canadian!" Then I have to explain that most Anglophone Canadians don't.

    Do you like Sweden? My mom is from Finland - I do like Scandinavia, though I haven't spent much time there in the last fifteen years. I live in England.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Forever_Jung View Post
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/st...-bill-101.html



    Do you think what Bernier says deserves the controversy and attention it has been attracting? What do you think about Bill 101?

    I personally agree with Bernier, and the fact that he has been getting so much heat for expressing his opinion seems unwarranted. If the people of Quebec want to speak French, they can speak it. If they don't, then they shouldn't HAVE to. Why do they need a bill to force them to do something they supposedly want to do? Just to force the minority of people who don't want to speak French to conform? I must be missing something here.
    English Montrealer here.. Who grew up during the introduction of bill 101.
    It was pure cultural genocide.
    English Montreal certainly had it's unique sub culture as did other regions of Quebec with pockets of English.

    Montreal was Canada's "World Class city"
    It's financial headquarters and largest city.

    Once Bill 101 came into reality, within 10 years almost half of Montreal's English population moved to Toronto, or elsewhere. 25 years later and Montreal English population went from about 40% of Montreal's total, to about 12%..Which is mostly old money that refuses to leave.
    Most importantly, The Money went to Toronto.. many companies closed their offices and headquarters in Montreal and moved to Toronto or elsewhere.

    Now Toronto is "Canada" and Montreal is just a cool place where you can get good food and party hard. But I would never live there again. My culture is dead. I live in Ontario .

  10. #10
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arclight View Post
    English Montrealer here.. Who grew up during the introduction of bill 101.
    It was pure cultural genocide.
    English Montreal certainly had it's unique sub culture as did other regions of Quebec with pockets of English.

    Montreal was Canada's "World Class city"
    It's financial headquarters and largest city.

    Once Bill 101 came into reality, within 10 years almost half of Montreal's English population moved to Toronto, or elsewhere. 25 years later and Montreal English population went from about 40% of Montreal's total, to about 12%..Which is mostly old money that refuses to leave.
    Most importantly, The Money went to Toronto.. many companies closed their offices and headquarters in Montreal and moved to Toronto or elsewhere.

    Now Toronto is "Canada" and Montreal is just a cool place where you can get good food and party hard. But I would never live there again. My culture is dead. I live in Ontario .
    Yeah, I don't think my dad has any family left in Montreal. Some in Toronto, some in BC...that's about it. And I think, as you say, it was partly because of the death of, or at least major reduction of, English Montreal culture. He was the youngest and his sisters are a fair bit older, and I think he was about 14 when they moved to Calgary - ultimately he ended up in BC. But more of his family might be still in Montreal, otherwise.

    I visited MOntreal twenty years ago but didn't receive that much of an impression of it. Maybe I was too young, but not a lot jumped out at me distinctively. I'd like to go again.
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