it's the thin end of the wedge. What has them in full-alarm mode is a plan by CEGEP Edouard-Montpetit to offer an aircraft-maintenance program - in English. That, one of the college's union president told La Presse, "might look harmless, but opens the door to lots of other things."
Worn and tired though it might be, Quebec's hair-trigger language issue can always be counted on to stir the anglo/franco pot afresh.
The school's plan to recruit badly needed students is an attempt to address plummeting enrolment in Quebec's aerospace training programs. Edouard-Montpetit is taking the program over from John Abbott College, which shuttered the program because of a lack of interest. Quebec is Canada's aerospace leader, with more than half of the country's industry. But enrolment dwindled from the chill effect caused by waves of massive layoffs at Bombardier, Air Canada, Pratt & Whitney, CAE and others.
Unions are overreacting and should chill out.
Like it or not, the aerospace business is conducted overwhelmingly in English the world over. English is the lingua franca of top and middle-level executives, engineers, sales and marketing people, support staff and media reps at Airbus and other aviation firms in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and other decidedly non-anglophone countries.
At Brazilian aircraft company Embraer's head office in Sao Jose dos Campos outside Sao Paulo, you'd almost think you were in Dallas, except the grammar's better and the accents tonier.
Training manuals and technical sheets all over the world are in English, parts bear English names, pilots from Japan and Jordan to Finland and Fiji train in English, as do air-traffic controllers. Many airports in South America, Europe and Asia have English signs and customs agents are fluent en anglais.
One course for a handful of aircraft-maintenance apprentices should be seen for what it is, a small step toward plugging a pressing need - not a threat.
Unions should worry more about the welfare of Quebec's aerospace business, and less about the hot-button language issue.