I added a paragraph to my last post, after it was published. By and large, posts are not read twice. I am therefore publishing what you haven’t read.
One paragraph in Wiki2.org’s entry entitled Official Language Act (Quebec) seems reassuring. Quebec’s Language Laws, Bills 22 and 101, do not take rights away from English-speaking Canadians. Their children may attend an English-language school. But the children of immigrants, are required to attend a French-language school. All signs, such as traffic signs, must be predominantly, if not entirely, in French. I remember mentioning in a post that a Quebec café or restaurant owner was required to remove the letters WC from the door to a public toilet room. WC (water closet) may be used in France, but not in Quebec. Stop signs are called arrêts in Quebec. In short, Quebec insists on looking French. Traffic monitors and advertising displays are in French.
I did not quote the introductory paragraph but quoted the paragaph following it.
That English was an official language in Quebec as well, was declared on July 19, 1974, by McGill University law faculty’s most expert counsellors, disputing Bill 22. The testifiers were Dean Frank R. Scott, John Peters Humphrey, chief planner of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, Irwin Cotler and four additional legal teachers:
Section 1, which provides that French is ‘the official language of the province of Quebec,’ is misleading in that it suggests that English is not also an official language in Quebec, which it is by virtue of Section 133 of the BNA Act and the federal Official Languages Act. … No legislation in the National Assembly proclaiming French the sole official language in the province can affect these bilingual areas protected by the BNA Act.
(See Official Language Act [Quebec], Wiki2.org.)
Although this paragraph is reassuring, to my knowledge, when Premier Robert Bourassa said that the province of Quebec would be unilingual (French), he meant ‘officially’ unilingual. Given that Canada’s official languages are French and English, why would Premier Bourassa say that Quebec would, henceforth, be a unilingual province, i. e. ‘officially’?
In other words, the rights of English-speaking Canadians are respected under the Official Languages Act of 1969, as per the paragraph I quoted. One difficulty arises for French-speaking Quebecers. After the age of 11, children are unlikely to acquire native fluency in a second language, but there are exceptions. Some individuals speak eighteen languages by the age of 18. They may make mistakes and they may have an accent, but… However, a large number of French-speaking Quebecers find ways of teaching English to their children. English is a North-American reality.
I have two students who mastered French. My star student is Gillian Pink, from Antigonish. Gillian is working at Oxford University.
Language Bills, Referendums, and Sovereignty
Let us return to Bill 22 and Bill 101. I have noted that there was an exodus from Quebec when Bill 22 was passed. In my opinion, Bill 22 was seen as a step in the direction of sovereignty. So have Bill 101 and the two referendums (1980 and 1995).
Quebec’s new Premier, François Legault, has stated that there would not be another referendum, but he and members of Coalition avenir Quebec will be seeking greater autonomy for Quebec. What does he mean? Quebec Premier René Lévesque did not sign the Constitution Act of 1982, and none of his successors have done so. The fact remains that I’ve been in the midst of an identity crisis for sixteen years, or since I left Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
My Quebec Health Insurance Card does not cover the cost of appointments with a doctor in provinces other than Canada. Yet, I am a Canadian, but a French-speaking Canadian living in Québec, whose mother tongue is French, who loves French literature, but who speaks English fluently and feels Quebec is safer as a province of Canada, than a country.
I believe that all Canadians are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the Constitution Act of 1982 enshrines the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is entrenched in the Constitution Act of 1982, which Quebec has not signed. Usually, Ottawa, the federal government, rescues Quebecers. It may have found a niche for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the Charter may exist separately. The BNA Act may be more permanent legislation.
However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires all provinces to provide primary and secondary education to their official-language minorities at public expense.
(See French Language in Canada, Wiki2.org.)
Would that Quebecers had not elected a party advocating greater autonomy for Quebec. Quebecers have to protect their language, but greater autonomy for Quebec suggests distancing Quebec from other Canadian provinces.
May all Canadians live in peace and harmony. Culturally, I am French. But home is also Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where I owned a lovely blue house, across the street from the campus of St Francis Xavier University and St Ninian’s Cathedral.
Ozias Leduc (8 October 1864 – 16 June 1955) is my featured artist. His subject matter is often religious. But his art is nevertheless diverse and still lifes seem a favourite subject. Well-known artist Paul-Émile Borduas was one of his students. I am embedding a video. It is a French-language video with a lyrical ambiance. A couple is getting on a raft that will take them to Ozias Leduc’s house. It may be the smaller house.
St Ninians’ Cathedral, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Closer to me, is St Ninian’s Cathedral, in Antigonish. Paintings in our Cathedral were the work of Ozias Leduc. I was in Antigonish when they were restored.
Love to everyone 💕
St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Antigonish, Nova Scotia
© Micheline Walker
10 October 2018