Anglophones have absolutely nothing to apologize for

Tension linguistique - JJC trahit la nation!

Robert Libman, the founding leader of the Equality Party, is a former member of the National Assembly and former mayor of Côte St. Luc
The Gazette, together with Jack Jedwab’s Association for Canadian Studies, has offered an alternative and more objective poll on the attitudes of Quebec’s English-speaking community concerning efforts to preserve French in Quebec than the one published by L’actualité magazine (“Asking the questions differently,” Opinion, April 10).
Jedwab correctly questions the sincerity of L’actualité’s claim that it is interested in opening up a linguistic dialogue between francophones and anglophones.
Writing in La Presse on April 2, L’actualité editor Carole Beaulieu attempted to defend the magazine’s actions by saying that the objective of its poll and accompanying stories was to “launch a necessary conversation with English-speaking Quebecers which could possibly avoid the linguistic crisis that is brewing.”
This explanation is a naked lie, in black and white. If there had been any sincere intent of constructive dialogue, L’actualité would have never put a picture of a frog on the front cover of the magazine holding a sign that says “Ici, on parle English.”
Beaulieu did not neglect to mention that the magazine was still on newsstands.
She was clearly only interested in throwing oil onto the fire and selling magazines at the expense of the politically volatile and easily manipulated relationship between the two linguistic groups.
Unfortunately, the L’actualité package has turned up the heat under a linguistic pot that has been reheated in recent months by some French-language media outlets. Snippets of language-related information based on false assumptions are being sewn together to give the impression of an irreversible trend unfavourable to French. The conclusion that L’actualité draws is that the French language is in grave danger in Montreal – and that the anglophone community is gleefully unsupportive of efforts to stem this irreversible tide of anglicization.
Not only is this not true, but it is like blaming someone who has just been kicked and beaten by a bully for not empathizing with the bully because he dented his steel-toe boots.
We don’t have to apologize for anything. On the contrary, the impact of Quebec’s French Language Charter (Bill 101) on the anglophone community of Quebec has been unjustly severe. While Bill 101 sought to correct inequities and ensure the presence and predominance of French everywhere in Quebec, the coercive measures of the legislation went too far, which resulted in a severe weakening of the English-speaking community, its school system and many of its institutions.
The English public school system had 250,000 students in the early-1970s compared with the 100,000 today because of the restrictions on access to English schools.
And now anglos are being taken to task for not supporting further efforts to weaken their language and community? As Don Macpherson said in his column (“Anglos have seen the enemy, and it is us,” Opinion, April 14), this is “a game we can’t win without abandoning our own language, culture and identity.” And he correctly adds: “All we hope for now is to be left in peace … We find ourselves once again under sustained public attack, as we had not been since the controversy over the language of commercial signs in the late-1980s.”
The protection of French does not have to be a zero-sum game but unfortunately many consider it to be. The continued witch hunt for “hidden” anglos in Quebec corporations who don’t speak French properly, the decision of the Liberal government to hire 69 more language tongue-troopers, the continued mythology perpetuated in the French media lately about the encroachment of English everywhere is absolutely mind-boggling.
An opinion article in La Presse the other day was all about how immigrants to Quebec are being anglicized by the Quebec government! It’s got to the point where even trying to express an anglophone point of view in a francophone forum is difficult. Good luck to any anglophone, for example, who wants to express his or her point of view in La Presse. I have certainly tried a few times, but have met with no success.
With a provincial election likely in the next year, it would be nice to be able to vote with some self-respect. Unfortunately our so-called elected “representatives” in the Liberal Party of Quebec hide under the covers when the anglo community is being whiplashed. It would be interesting to hear their take on this most recent nonsense.
Respect is a two-way street and despite the tripe in L’actualité, all we get for our efforts to adapt, learn to speak French and immerse our kids in the language is another kick in the teeth.
Robert Libmanwas the founding leader of the Equality Party, and is a former member of the National Assembly and ex-mayor of Côte St. Luc

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