Immigrants' values pledge is no more than just words

Meanwhile, government balks at expanding French-language protections in Bill 101

Déclaration sur les valeurs communes <br>Contrat d'adhésion

Words are nice. Politicians love words. And that's pretty much what the Charest government's values pledge, to be signed by new immigrants starting next year, comes down to: words. But they're words without the matching means to carry them out in the real world.
The fact that Immigration Minister Yolande James announced this new declaration only one week before the premier is expected to call an election brings other words to mind: electoral politics.
Officially, this pledge is intended as an answer to the Bouchard-Taylor commission on so-called reasonable accommodation. But electorally speaking, it is one more move by Premier Jean Charest to portray himself and his government as the ultimate guardians of Quebec values and identity - something the Parti Québécois and Action démocratique can no longer claim to be their exclusive territory.

The main common values that new immigrants will be asked to sign on to are that Quebec is a free, democratic and pluralistic society, French is its official language, men and women have equal rights and religion and the state are separate. So there's no "slippery slope" here, as some have claimed, because it states what's already in Quebec's charters of rights and of the French language.
Listing the obvious will render these pledges redundant at best. In fact, why would someone who wants to immigrate to a free country or province - this pledge will not apply to federally controlled refugee claims - refuse to sign something that only repeats what is already known? Especially in this case, where the government says it will reject any applicant who won't sign it.
But let's focus on one of those values: French as the language of work, education, commerce, and so on. Really? On Oct. 10, an event in Montreal painted a different portrait in the area of work and commerce.
Buried by news of the federal election, this event was called the "Rendez-vous des gens d'affaires et des partenaires socio-économiques de Montréal." Set up by the Charest government, business associations and the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, it was presented as the government's answer to the growing data showing French is losing ground in Montreal as the "normal" language of work.
The mayor of Montreal was there. So was the premier himself, ADQ leader Mario Dumont, PQ MNAs Pierre Curzi and François Legault, Language Minister Christine St-Pierre and an array of business leaders. One of the documents they looked at was a study by the Office québécois de la langue française. It showed that 29 per cent of small businesses in Montreal hire employees who don't speak French. That's 8,000 employees who can't communicate with clients in the official language.
Le Devoir reported that they also were handed a Léger Marketing poll showing that 12 per cent of francophone clients couldn't get service in French on the Island of Montreal - up to 29 per cent in the West Island.
Still, most of these nice people quickly reached a consensus: There's no need to extend Bill 101 to small and medium-sized businesses even though French is losing ground specifically where a number of immigrants find work and begin their integration into Quebec society.
Instead, the government is doing a "Be proud of speaking French" ad campaign and adding money here and there in a few government programs. In the meantime, the reality is that immigrants, or francophones and anglophones for that matter, who find work in a number of small- and medium-sized businesses are not even asked to function in French. This means that in that area, the integration process is deficient and that so-called incentive measures are not effective enough.
Overall, in the past year, OQLF studies and extended data from the 2006 census have shown that the French language is also losing ground both on the Island and in the Greater Montreal area.
So here's stating another obvious fact: This "rendez-vous" and the new "values" pledge won't do much to reverse this movement. They're only words, words and more words. But politicians love words, don't they? Especially when they don't require any follow-up action.

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