the British Minority of Quebec Mistreated?
According to Alliance Quebec, and its associates King and al., the anglophone minority of Quebec is mistreated, deprived and oppressed. Some of its recent pronouncements border on indecency. They affirm that, with the PQ in power, here it is Mr. Keaton speaking, that a major crisis will break out among anglophones. They invite French Quebecers to move to France if they do not wish to see signs in English. Abroad, they spread that French policemen will arrest any person that advertises in the English language. In the New York Times, an editorialist recently wrote that Quebecers are attempting to erect new barricades ... against the assaults of English. The Foundation of Citizens of Canada of Beaconsfield has just erected in Trout River an immense billboard so that Americans will know that Quebec has suspended fundamental freedoms. They accuse the defenders of French of being extremists, fanatics and sectarians. We are sometimes reminded by them that Canada is an English land and that British troops vanquished the French.
These views are frequent. I have picked two from among twenty or so. The first is that of professor Donderi who seriously affirmed that Montreal is the capital of linguistic racism and repression. The second is that of the writer Ronald Wright. For him Quebec nationalism has a dangerous cousin on the other side of the planet... In South Africa obviously.
Are French -Speaking Quebecers so intransigent and intolerant that they persecute the British of Quebec (English, Scottish and Irish)? Supporters of the Equality Party and of Alliance Quebec affirm, to whoever will listen to them, that we oppress them, that we limit their freedoms. Are we truly despotic? Oppressors? At another time we will demonstrate that our openmindnessess has been so generous that the anglophone minority of Quebec is one of the best treated minorities in the world.
Quebecers of British origins (English, Scottish and Irish) are about 7% of the population of Quebec. What place do they occupy in the public institutions? Is their language banished from the National Assembly? Do the courts ban the use of English? Have French Quebecers refused to finance the schools, the colleges and the English speaking universities? Have they limited the freedom of expression of their anglophone compatriots? Have they been submitted to economic slavery and servitude? These are the questions that I seek to answer here.
In the domain of political institutions, Anglophones possess privileges that Acadians and Francophones from outside of Quebec would wish to have? (Sic) In the National Assembly, the English language is used to print, publish, adopt and sanction proposed bills, laws, regulations and acts of a similar nature.
English is used in the debates of the Assembly and in the Commissions and committees of the Parliament. 22% of the members of the National Assembly are anglophones. Their language is used in a large number of municipalities and school boards. 79 health and social establishments of Quebec are require to furnish their services in English. Nearly half of the delegations and offices of Quebec established abroad are in English-speaking countries. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
The Judicial system
In the judicial field, the English language may be used in all matters brought before or issued by the Courts as well as in all matters of procedure that emanate from the Courts. At the request of one of the parties, any judgement rendered by a judicial tribunal and any decision rendered by a quasi-judicial body will be translated into English and the Public Administration will assume all necessary costs. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
In the field of education, the anglophone minority of Quebec has access to English language courses from primary school to university. Its schools may be attended by children whose father or mother have received their primary education English in Canada; other categories of children, as defined in bill 86, also have access to these schools. The teaching is governed by anglophone institutions. This is done in 306 elementary schools as well as 66 schools designed as bilingual. Anglophones also have 7 English cegeps as well as 2 bilingual cegeps. There schools and cegeps are all financed by the Government of Quebec. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
In the field of universities, three anglophone institutions are generously financed by the Government of Quebec (McGill, Concordia and Bishop). In these three institutions is found 29% of the student population of the province; one fifth of these are francophones. These institutions grant 48% of all of the Arts' doctorates of the province. Anglophones also control several centres of excellence renowned throughout the world: Saidye Bronfman, Centaur, McCord Museum; these have the support of the francophone majority. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
In the field of communications, 30 regular channels in English are offered on the cable, three television stations as well as three channels accessible through pay-tv. Anglophones have 11 radio stations with a market share of 36%, three daily newspapers with a 30% share of readership and 18 weeklies. Furthermore nearly 50% of Quebecers go to English movies and more than 30% of video-cassettes rented are in English. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
In business, 31% of all enterprises were owned by anglophones in 1987. 26.3% of managers were of English mother tongue and the communications between management and subordinate are in the language of the manager [Paul BELAND, Indicateurs de la situation linguistique au Quebec, Conseil de la langue française, 1992, p.51]. 45% of anglophones in Quebec work primarily in the English language [at least 50% of their time or more]. 195 head office of companies, and 55 research centres, function essentially in English
In 1989, 41.3% of Montrealers used computer programmes in English and 21.1% worked with French and English programmes; The computer user manuals are in English for 41.5% of French speaking users in Montreal; in the rest of the province, the proportion is 25%. Circulars distributed throughout the province are bilingual. Henceforth [Bill 86], English will also be used on signs and in the names of companies. No anglophone province of this bilingual Canada respects its French minority to this degree.
The life of francophones in the anglophone provinces
In practice, the English provinces are far less generous toward the french and acadian minorities than the Francophones of Quebec are toward their compatriots of British origin. In their parliaments and courts, the use of French is very rare and in some of the provinces it is nearly forbidden. On the contrary, the other provinces take a parsimonious and stingy attitude. Yet, in signing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, they undertook to guarantee to the French communities the control of their schools.
Ever since, a war of attrition has been waged. The governments of the anglophone provinces delay, equivocate, hesitate, procrastinate and play cat and mouse games. The Commissioner of Official Languages, Victor Goldbloom "found that no progress had been achieved in the last year to grant control over its schools to the francophone minorities and this despite the decision of the Supreme Court confirming the rights of francophone parents. He even notes that the province of Manitoba is retreating [La Presse, May 27, 1993].
In British Columbia, in 1993, the Government of Mike Harcourt expressed the intent to authorise in the future the establishment of one French language school board.
In Alberta, in 1992, the government folded the parliamentary session without having voted its legislation to grant control of the schools to francophones. Yet, in 1925, the teaching of French as a mother tongue had been "authorised by a regulation of the Department of Public Instruction and regulated by a specific and detailed programme similar to the one governing the teaching in the English Language". 68 years later, Franco-Albertans must still live on hope.
In 1993, the Romanow government of Saskatchewan adopted bill 39 to put the administration of their schools in the hands of francophones. The regulations have not been published, the government policies have not been elaborated and the financing has not been settled between Regina and Ottawa.
In Manitoba, the Filmon government has proposed to grant the administration of their schools to the Franco-Manitobans who will signify their intent to belong to the new francophone school district.
In 1993, Franco-Ontarians continue to be subjected to the elastic clause of "where numbers warrants it".
In Prince Edward Island, the government has not moved yet and the 7,000 francophone acadians have only two French schools in the entire island.
In 1986, the Government of Nova School [sic read Nova Scotia] voted a law for the creation of French school councils; however, they are still wondering, in 1993, if they should establish such councils.
In Newfoundland, the Wells government has established a school law that conforms to the requirement of the Charter, but a ministerial committee has been studying for year the applicability of such a measure.
In Quebec, French has rights. French speaking Quebecers are equitable, and honest but they intend to protect their culture, their language and their collective future. The heirs to British "fair play" established here cannot indefinitely be opposed to the aspirations of the majority in Quebec. To the contrary, they will profit from their integration into the Quebec people and thus help fashion the Quebec of tomorrow, this country which is within reach and to which they have been opposed. They should request [Note from the translator: demand?] that the Government of Quebec re-establish Bill 101 in its original form and pledge not to challenge the law before the tribunals. It would also be to their advantage that they use their influence to better the status of French for the francophones minorities outside of Quebec.
Source: Rosaire MORIN, "La minorité britannique du Québec est-elle maltraitée?", in L'Action Nationale, Vol. 83, No 8 (Octobre 1993): 1110-1117
Translation by Claude Bélanger.
© 1999 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College [for the translation]