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A stroll down language lane

by The Concordian September 13, 2011

Graphic by Katie Brioux

Quebec has always prided itself as being a cultural hub. From arts and entertainment to the multicultural fabric of the province, our predominantly French-speaking region has remained an international destination on the world map, with cosmopolitan Montreal as its diamond centre. Ste-Catherine Street is world famous for its smorgasbord of shops, restaurants and diversions that play host to the city’s patrons and guests.
In late August, the Office quebecois de la langue francaise announced a new initiative aimed at reversing the tide of “anglicization” in Montreal. Shop owners would be reminded that although they may use English names to do business, the law requires English-named stores to be accompanied with a generic French term.
Next year will be the 35th anniversary of the granting of Royal Assent to one of the province’s (and our country’s) most hotly debated laws, the Charter of the French Language, better known as Bill 101, which put French as the official language of the Quebec public sphere.
It seems the provincial government loves to shoot itself in the foot. Despite a serious shortage of professionals (such as medical doctors), Quebec readily turns applicants away, citing language concerns. While I do believe that bilingual doctors are necessary for a functional health care system in this country, it seems to me that a diagnosis is universal.
Provide a year for doctors to meet the French language standard, while working within the field. It would be easy to have a nurse translate the doctor’s prognosis, while decreasing the steadily climbing list of patients who are in the wards. Doctors would gain experience within the Quebec system and patients would get a faster prognosis for their ailments.
Think about the possibility of such training in all facets of industry. Professionals would be able to work in Quebec while learning the language, making the province an attractive area for future investment. The government even comes out looking good in this situation to all those in the political spectrum.
With that being said, I find it just as petty when anglophones are riled up about such issues, instead of looking at the larger picture. Most misconstrue the efforts of Bill 101 as a direct attack on federalism in our country. The sole purpose of the bill, and initiatives like the one recently announced, is to protect our cultural heritage.
While many provisions within the charter are extremely restrictive and definitely bureaucratic (for example: the sending of immigrant children to French schools only), the overall context for it is necessary. Pierre Elliott Trudeau is regarded as one of this country’s greatest leaders, yet his initiative for bilingualism in the provinces failed miserably. Attempt to speak French at a store in Calgary, at mall in Halifax or at restaurant in Regina. The service is appalling at best and non-existent at the worst. How can we as citizens officially call ourselves a bilingual country, if not everyone speaks both languages?
Quebec has a duty not only to itself, but also to the rest of this country to remain ardent in its inculcation of the French language. When Ottawa does the bare minimum to encourage proper French instruction in city centres, Canada’s predominantly French-speaking province must take action, to protect a part of our mutual Canadian heritage and one of our forgotten official languages.

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1 comment

gmckibbin September 13, 2011 - 19:05

`World famous“ “on the world map“ …lol Get over yourselves and quit living in a bygone era. Quebec is synonymous with corruption, rot and decline and the reason is the bigoted anti-anglo legislation that has left it as the fifth most indebted jurisdiction in the world. Montreal hasn“t been a “destination“`in years.

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