The Parti Québécois should reread the French Language Charter. The law has never called for the English language to be rendered invisible, unheard and unspoken the length and breadth of the province.
Yet PQ leader Pauline Marois, and various of her party members, seem convinced that the mere presence of a purportedly unilingual English retail worker in downtown Montreal stores is reason enough to demand "corrections" to the language legislation.
From there, they have moved along briskly to the alarming notion that babies in their cribs should come under the language charter, too. On Sunday, PQ language critic Pierre Curzi suggested in an interview with Canadian Press that children in daycare should come under the language regime that prevails in elementary and secondary schools. Curzi suggested that immigrants to Quebec be required to sign an "integration contract," part of which would involve sending their children to a French-language daycare.
Marois backed away from Curzi's suggestions on Monday, saying, "We do not intend to touch the question of the (daycare centres) at this time." The phrase "at this time" speaks volumes about Marois's leadership style.
She will come back to the issue, apparently, when it suits her. She is turning the PQ into a single-issue party, one based on identity. Anything that can be construed as threatening that identity is fodder for her battle.
More than 95 per cent of Quebec's publicly-funded daycares (or centres de la petite enfance) operate in French. Fewer than five per cent offer services in French plus another language; 13.5 per cent offer services in French and English. Why isn't this good enough for the PQ?
Does it seriously want there to be no other language than French spoken in the province, from daycare centres on up through the school system and then out into the workplace?
Everything is pointing in that direction. The so-called unilingual anglophone retail worker was in fact a reporter with the Journal de Montréal, posing as someone who could not do much better than "bonjour" on the job. Marois and the PQ were outraged that this fake anglophone was hired by 15 retail outlets at the height of the Christmas season. Marois denounced this "situation" as "unacceptable in every regard." She said further that "It is clear that we are almost back to the situation that prevailed before Bill 101 was passed in 1977."
This is ridiculous. One, 82 per cent of Quebecers speak French at home. Two, at no point did the French language charter have as its ultimate goal the eradication of English from public life in Quebec. Yet here are the successors to René Lévesque agitating for toddlers to be made to speak French and for small businesses to be forced to go through the long, bureaucratic process of obtaining francisation certificates. The PQ needs to calm down.