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Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-CotéWet Snow, Arthabaska (detail), around 1919, oil on canvas. Gift of Mrs Ruth Soloway, 2012 (55-004.45) Photo: Bernard Clark


A Sad Remnant of Imperialism and Colonialism

I wrote a long post on the background of Quebec’s “Language Laws.” The post is too long and language laws will not yield a positive result. If a new language law is passed, Anglophones are perturbed, and many leave Quebec, which hurts Quebec. Several Quebec Anglophones are the descendants of United Empire Loyalists. The Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec were given to them. It became their home.

In the 19th century, the British Empire was at its apex. So, Thomas Babington Macaulay recommended that the language of higher instruction in India be English. His policy, called Macaulayism, spread to other British colonies. Thomas Babington Macaulay was a fine man, but Britain’s success in accumulating colonies led to a belief that English was a superior language. One can understand Thomas Babington Macaulay’s belief, but it is not necessarily accurate. Macaulay was a product of his time.

I would recommend that language laws be abolished and that anglophones study French. However, if the teaching of French became compulsory, anglophones may think their rights and values are scorned. Quebec has bilingual areas. The Eastern Townships of Quebec are bilingual, and many Montrealers are anglophones. Bill 96 further restricts the use of the English language in these areas. Business must be carried out in French to a greater extent and more documents issued by the government of Quebec will not be available in French. Restrictions also include medical care, which is very personal.

As well, Bill 96 affects francophone students. French-speaking Québécois often enrol in an English-language Cégep to learn English. Cégeps offer a two-year programme following secondary school. Access to English-language Cégeps will be restricted.

The number of students in English-language CEGEPs, as a proportion of overall students, can’t be higher than it was the school year before and cannot surpass 17.5 per cent of the overall student population in Quebec.


When New France fell to Britain, at the Treaty of Paris, 1763, its governors were directed to assimilate the French, but it could be that they could not assimilate the French. The Act of Union (1840) was a purposeful attempt to assimilate the French, but Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine built a bilingual and bicultural Province of Canada. However, John A. Macdonald favoured schools where the language of instruction was English, “uniform” schools. French Canadians had to remain in Quebec to be educated in the French language. Therefore, immigrants and refugees who arrived in Canada, the prairies mostly, attended “uniform” schools or schools where the language of instruction was English. This created an imbalance that may not change, and which is reflected in Quebec’s controversial language legislation. The term “uniform” is not mine, but it was used in the literature I read.

So, John A Macdonald minoritised French Canadians. Quebec was the only province where French-speaking Canadians could be educated in French. Therefore, Quebec passes language laws that irritate its anglophone citizens, which summarises the “Quebec” question. The governments of other Canadian provinces do not pass language laws. The English language is not a threatened species and French can be learned at school. Finally, minority language rights are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms deals with minority language rights. One has the right to be educated in French, but numbers count. A school will not be created for a handful of French-speaking Canadians, but

[t]he school is the single most important institution for the survival of the official language community, which is itself a true beneficiary under section 23 of the Charter (Arsenault-Cameron at paragraph 29; (CSF de la C-B 2016, at paragraph 367).

Section 23

I will publish my long post, but the above suffices. In my opinion, language laws deepen the rift between francophones and anglophones. The alternative to language laws is bilingual education. Anglophones could encourage their children to learn French. Learning a second language benefits a child. However, anglophones cannot be compelled to have their children educated in a language other than English. It will not work. Ideally, one should wish to know French.

French is one of Canada’s two official languages, which does not mean that every Canadian should know the two languages. But Quebec anglophones cannot ignore Canada’s officially bilingual and bicultural status. I no longer want to hear someone boast that his or her nephew or niece studied at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, or a Montreal university and managed not to learn a word of French. One does not boast about such a relative. Failure to learn French while living in Quebec is not an achievement. I took courses in musicology at Bishop’s University. It’s a fine school.

Harvard University will now offer a course on francophonie. This, I believe, is a step in the right direction. A similar approach could be offered in Quebec’s English-language universities. It may lead to an understanding of Canada’s Official Languages Acts.


Yes, anglophones in Quebec have a right to live in English. I suppose that during the decades I lived outside Quebec, I also had the “right” to speak French, but English was my everyday language. In Antigonish, Nova Scotia one speaks English. Fortunately, I was a university teacher of French, which allowed me to express myself in my mother tongue.

Let me quote Lord Durham (John Lambton, 1st Earl of). John Lambton was asked to investigate the Rebellions of 1837-1838 and to present a report and recommendations. He wrote the following:

I entertain no doubts as to the national character which must be given to Lower Canada; it must be that of the British Empire; that of the majority of the population of British America; that of the great race which must, in the lapse of no long period of time, be predominant over the whole North American Continent. Without effecting the change so rapidly or so roughly as to shock the feelings and trample on the welfare of the existing generation, it must henceforth be the first and steady purpose of the British Government to establish an English population, with English laws and language, in this Province, and to trust its government to none but a decidedly English legislature.
Lord Durham's Report, the University of Victoria


The article may be listed on the right side of the page.


Kind regards to everyone 💕

Susor-Coté, discussed in Québec French
Le Vieux Fumeur par Marc-Aurèle de Foy Susor-Coté (NGA)

© Micheline Walker
29 September 2022