Learn the language

By proposing a bill pushing for a new Quebec constitution, the Parti Québécois (PQ) launched a political bomb in the Quebec political arena two weeks ago. Major controversy arose from the fact that the bill would allegedly deprive Quebec newcomers some civic rights.

By proposing a bill pushing for a new Quebec constitution, the Parti Québécois (PQ) launched a political bomb in the Quebec political arena two weeks ago. Major controversy arose from the fact that the bill would allegedly deprive Quebec newcomers some civic rights.
Under the new constitution anyone wanting to run for provincial, municipal or even school board elections, would have to show an appropriate knowledge of French.
The bill created a political storm to say the least, with the majority of Francophones approving Marois’ project, while the country’s English-language media reacted in an equal and opposite fashion.
The proposed bill sure made a lot of noise especially for a bill that had little chance of being adopted. Indeed, it would have been odd to see either the Liberals or the Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ) let the PQ dictate the government’s agenda on such a critical matter.
As the dust settles on this issue, a lot of people may very well interpret the PQ’s move as irrelevant in the long-term political landscape. They shouldn’t. Since Quebecers’ dreams of independence are far from becoming a reality, they turn to alternate ways of protecting their cultural identity.
The idea of a Quebec constitution and citizenship is nothing new. The ADQ, for example, has been proposing to institute a Quebec constitution ever since the last provincial election. Furthermore, Quebec politicians are strongly encouraged by the fact that in many nations such as France, Great Britain and Germany, immigrants must prove they have a sufficient knowledge of the language to obtain citizenship status.
Since Canada already recognized Quebec as a nation, it may not be long before it actually starts acting as one.
Detractors of the Constitution bill say it is useless since Quebec already uses its control over immigration to select French speaking immigrants exclusively.
It is true that with the immigration process being what it is, Quebec has been putting a priority on selecting French-speaking immigrants since 1991.
However, certain categories of immigrants are allowed to bypass the regular evaluation process. For example, foreign nationals who seek refuge for political reasons are taken right in for humanitarian purposes, even if they have no knowledge of French. It is those immigrants that Bill 195 targets. A projected evaluation has estimated the total number of these newcomers will reach 200,000 within 10 years.
When they rejected the PQ’s project two weeks ago, Liberals said the PQ’s bill would be unfair to newcomers by making them second-class citizens. At the risk of being insensitive, I would say that people who leave their country for political motives will probably find in Quebec a hell of a lot more rights than they had in their home country anyway. The least Quebecers can ask for in return would be to return the favour by learning the language. You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours.

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