Who advises Pauline Marois on language? It's getting rather difficult to follow her various statements on the subject.
Last fall, the Parti Québécois leader made a big splash with a bill that included extending Bill 101 to mid-size businesses. In another bill, although anti-democratic in nature, she fought for the creation of a two-tiered citizenship in which allophone future Canadian citizens would lose some of their basic rights if they didn't master French enough to get that new Quebec citizenship.
This week, it was something completely different. She opposed extending Bill 101 to CEGEPs. For Marois and the other two party leaders, the fact that Quebec is the only known state where almost half of allophone students choose to get their higher education, including at university, in the language of the minority, doesn't warrant any change of policy.
This week, after she stated to Le Devoir that she wants all Quebec students to learn English as well as French, she took it further. In the Journal de Montréal, she said that some courses should be given in French primary or secondary schools in English only.
She's going in all directions, and obviously not thinking out the potential consequences of what she's suggesting, the whole thing became even more confused when she added: "We could take some history courses and teach them in English, or it could be geography, or it could another class of general training, or it could be done with extra-curricular activities."
By coincidence, Marois's statement came out on the same day that Education Minister Michèle Courchesne announced a long-awaited plan to beef up the teaching of French in Quebec schools. The contrast was striking.
So it was ironic yesterday when Marois criticized the confusion emanating from the Charest government on language. Although she was right to once again denounce Charest's language minister and the president of the Office québécois de la langue française for hiding some scientific studies suspected of painting a less than rosy picture of the state of the French language, her own confusion on the subject doesn't help either.
Marois said: "What's going on right now in all that confusion over the language issue in Quebec deserves a major cleanup." Indeed. But that should also extend to the PQ and its leader, who should find herself an adviser who understands this complex issue and who could help her come up with a better informed and more cohesive set of proposals than her own recent, more improvised sorties.
So it was no surprise that even after Marois had warned her party last week not to question her positions through the media, criticisms came flying anyway. Such French-language defence groups as Montréal Français and Impératif Français, some headed by longtime PQ members, opposed her statements on Bill 101 and CEGEPs as well as on teaching classes in English in French schools.
Réjean Parent, president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, went further: "The leader of the PQ wants to teach history in English? That's le boutte and it makes no sense."
Even the chief editorialist at La Presse, André Pratte, wrote that this was a pretty strange idea. He sarcastically asked whether the history of the rebellions would be taught in "the language of Wolfe?"
Now, when a PQ leader manages to rile La Presse and Montréal Français on the language issue, you know there's been a slip-up.
Having made this mistake and faced with some of her troops not following her warning to debate only within the PQ, Marois yesterday brandished the possibility of bringing down the Charest government at budget time.
Like all leaders, Marois knows that there's nothing like the smell of an election to quiet down the troops and replace criticisms with calls for unity. She's also considering tabling a new provision for Quebec's Charter of Rights to better protect the French language. But with her twists and turns, who knows how far she's willing to push the language hot button?
Marois is all over map on language
First she wants to expand Bill 1O1 to business, but then she's opposed to cracking down on CEGEPs