I have been unable to write for the last few days. Nothing could be done. I have long suffered from what is now called “long Covid.” It developed when I caught a virus that caused Chronic Fatigue Syndrome /Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, an illness I never recovered from. It could have been depression.
My siblings and I had a dog and several cats during our childhood. We learned to love animals. But as an adult, I kept a cat or two until Belaud’s death. I have been looking for another Chartreux, but there does not seem to be a breeder in Quebec. Chartreux are difficult to find. Belaud was Belaud II. He was my second Chartreux. Having a cat alleviates depression.
My most intelligent cat was not a Chartreux but a brown tabby who was an Einstein in the cat world. Mouchette was a small cat born in the dead of winter and had lost part of an ear and part of her tail to frost. She never grew into a full-size cat, but I could not see the slightest imperfection in her. I was amazed when she picked up a mushy ball and brought it to me so we could play ball. I have been thinking of her. Dear petite Mouchette.
My students knew I had a cat and were pleased to hear that I was not alone in the blue house. Teachers do not tell about their private life, but students like to hear that their teacher has a cat. They called her my sidekick.
L’École acadienne de Pomquet
I am still thinking about language laws. Outside Quebec, there are no language laws. Students living in large cities may enter a French immersion school. These schools are often described as “private schools within the public system.” They reflect the work and findings of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and the ensuing Official Languages Act of 1969. The Official Languages Act of 1969 was revised in the Official Languages Act of 1988. These acts do not address education, but the passage of the Official Languages Act of 1969 led to the development of publicly funded French immersion schools and summer immersion programmes. Canadian Parents for French is an association that has encouraged learning French from coast to coast.
Jules d’Haberville, a seigneur‘s son, and Arché, Archibald of Locheill, a Scot, are close friends. Both are studying at the séminaire (college) in Quebec City and Arché spends holidays with the d’Haberville family. When Jules and Arché leave the séminaire, the two friends join the military and are enemies during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Jules is very angry. Arché had to burn down the Seigneur d’Haberville’s Manoir. The two reconcile. Jules will marry an English woman, but Blanche, Jules’s sister, will not marry Arché. These are the two faces of “Canada” after Nouvelle-France‘s defeat. One turns the page, but one remembers. Les Anciens Canadiens is an instance of anamnesis, but it proposes a union between French-speaking Canadiens and English-speaking Canadians.
The former citizens of New France were governed, first, by James Murray and, later, by Sir Guy Carleton, 1stBaron Dorchester. We owe Sir Guy Carleton the Quebec Act Act of 1774, a recognition of French-speaking Canadians. The Quebec Act did not fully cancel the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a recognition of the rights of Canada’s First Nations, but it ended a will to assimilate French-speaking British subjects. Similarly, the Constitutional Act of 1791 did not fully repeal the Quebec Act of 1774. Quebec retained its Seigneurial System, which was not abolished until 1854. Moreover, French-speaking Canadians could still speak French, practice their religion, keep their Code Civil, and run for office. However, the Constitutional Act of 1791 reduced the size of the former Province of Quebec and it separated Canada into Upper Canada and Lower Canada (lower down the St Lawrence River).
I quoted the Preface to Sir Charles G. D. Roberts‘ second translation of Les Anciens Canadiens in my last post, but my quotation disappeared. The image of Cameron of Lochiel (Arché) had been placed at the foot of this post without reference to Cameron of Lochiel.
Sir Charles G. D. Roberts belonged to a group called the Confederation poets. These poets supported Canadian unity which was dealt a blow by Confederation. However, this could not be discussed in 1905, despite Confederation occurring in 1867. At that point, no one knew to what extent Residential Schools would harm Amerindians. Moreover, in 1905, the imbalance between English-speaking Canadians and French-speaking Canadians could not be assessed. But we read, in Charles G. D. Roberts’s Preface, that “there is afforded a series of problems,” which is a signal.
In Canada there is settling into shape a nation of two races; there is springing into existence, at the same time, a literature in two languages. In the matter of strength and stamina there is no overwhelming disparity between the two races. The two languages are admittedly those to which belong the supreme literary achievements of the modern world. In this dual character of the Canadian people and the Canadian literature there is afforded a series of problems which the future will be taxed to solve. To make any intelligent forecast as to the solution is hardly possible without a fair comprehension of the two races as they appear at the point of contact. We, of English speech, turn naturally to French-Canadian literature for knowledge of the French-Canadian people. The romance before us, while intended for those who read to be entertained, and by no means weighted down with didactic purpose, succeeds in throwing, by its faithful depictions of life and sentiment among the early French Canadians, a strong side-light upon the motives and aspirations of the race.
Sir John A. Macdonald and his followers created the “Quebec Question.” The children of immigrants to Canada who settled in provinces outside Quebec attended “uniform” schools. They learned English, and many grew to believe that Canada was an English-language country. Québécois have been addressing this imbalance by passing Language Laws, one of which is Bill 96. Bill 96 threatens what has long been a reality confirmed in the Official Languages Act of 1969. Canada is an officially bilingual and bicultural country.
These laws have been a source of tension between the two “solitudes,” francophones and anglophones. Hugh MacLennan published Two Solitudes (1945), depicting Canada’s profoundly divided anglophones and francophones. This problem was investigated by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963-1969). However, Language Laws, Bill 96, perpetuate the division between anglophones and francophones. They also project an unfavourable image of Quebec. Moreover, language laws misuse the policy of multiculturalism, first expressed by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, in 1971. Multiculturalism, or pluralism, is not a cancellation of the Official Languages Act of 1969.
The term multiculturalism is descriptive. It recognizes the presence in Canada of persons originating from many lands, but Canada remains a bilingual and bicultural nation. Multiculturalism cannot be used not to learn at least one of Canada’s official languages. Nor can it be used as a promotion of unilingualism (French or English) on the part of individuals and a government. Moreover, since the passage of the Official Languages Act of 1969, government services should be provided in the two official languages. For instance, a francophone should not be tried in English, nor should an anglophone be tried in French. Finally, Bill 96 cannot compel individuals in Quebec to use French only. If so, it breaches the Official Languages Act of 1969.
Multiculturalism was recognized in Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). But, interestingly, New Zealand born and educated Peter Hogg, CC QC FRSC, Canada's foremost authority on Canadian constitutional law,
“observed that this section did not actually contain a right; namely, it did not say that Canadians have a right to multiculturalism. The section was instead meant to guide the interpretation of the Charter to respect Canada's multiculturalism. Hogg also remarked that it was difficult to see how this could have a large impact on the reading of the Charter, and thus section 27 could be more of a rhetorical flourish than an operative provision.’” (section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Wikipedia.)
In a post entitled On Language Laws in Quebec (18 November 2021), I wrote that last November, Air Canada‘s CEO (PDG), Michael Rousseau, who had lived in Quebec since 2007, addressed the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in English. He made Air Canada look like a foreign corporation where business was conducted in the English language. Michael Rousseau’s snafu could be interpreted as a breach of the Official Languages Act, passed in 1969, fifty-three years ago. A friend reminds me that in Canada, French is not a foreign language.
In the 1960s, my father, a favourite guest of talk shows in Vancouver, would be told that the French in North America had lost the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (13 September 1859), which had settled matters once and for all. Such a comment used to sadden me. We are now in the 2020s. It has also saddened me to hear relatives praise a student who attended university in Quebec managing not to learn French. He or she may not have found time to study French and missed an opportunity to do so. Moreover, my career was affected by Quebec’s language laws. I was expected to explain Quebec, which I could not do. Nor could I provide a method of teaching that led to a quick mastery of the French language.
I do not support Quebec’s language laws. They further separate Canada’s anglophones and francophones and create polarisation. People dig in their heels endangering the French language and Canadian unity.
On 24 June, Québécois celebrated la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec’s national holiday. The celebration is rooted in la Saint-Jean, a celebration of the summer solstice. Canada day is celebrated on 1 July, today. There have been sinners on both sides of Canada’s linguistic divide, but I am celebrating Canada Day.
I have been in Magog, very close to Sherbrooke, but despite the effort, I have not been able to complete a post on Quebec’s Language Laws. The muscles of my left arm are still very sore, which keeps me away from the computer. Moreover, I have been taking medication. It affects one’s concentration.
I wanted to write a post about Quebec’s language laws. Such an endeavour is a little ambitious. I may, however, express my main thoughts.
Unfortunately, to a very large extent, the language laws that bedevil Canadians to this day are the result of John A. Macdonald‘s refusal to allow the children of French-speaking families to be educated in the French language outside Quebec. Bilingualism in Canada ended at the time of the Confederation. Although we cannot determine to what extent Canada would have been genuinely bilingual, there can be no doubt that had children been educated in French outside Quebec after Confederation, more Canadians would have been bilingual. Immigrants to Canada learned English.
Therefore, it could be argued that Prime Minister A. J. Macdonald created the Quebec “question,” and put French-speaking Canadians on the defensive. Quebec’s first nationalist was Pierre-Stanislas Bédard. Bédard founded the Parti Canadien and, in 1806, he founded a French-language newspaper: Le Canadien.
So Quebec uses laws to maintain the French language. I do not think these laws serve a purpose other than deepening the rift between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians. But the arrival in future Canada of thousands of United Empire Loyalists (UEL) had changed the demographics of Britain’s new colony in North America and had also led to the Constitutional Act of 1791. The Constitutional Act divided the former Province of Quebec into anglophone Upper Canada and the mostly francophone Lower Canada. Should the two Canadas be united, Canadiens could be assimilated.
The two Canadas were united in 1840, but the Premiers of the Province of Canada, Robert Baldwin in Canada West and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine in Canada East fashioned a bilingual Canada. John Ralston Saul has written a fine book on Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine. I agree with John Saul that Canada was born before 1867, the year four provinces were confederated.
As we have seen in earlier posts, it appears that John A. Macdonald sewed the seeds of a long conflict. In 1867, the year four Canadian provinces entered Confederation, the population of the Red River Colony, a territory bought by the Earl of Selkirk, consisted of an equal number of French-speaking and English was a bilingual and multicultural location. Once the Métis moved to Saskatchewan in search of river lots, the Red River Colony ceased to be bilingual.
Other than the Red River Colony, and, earlier, the great ministry of Baldwin and LaFontaine, we have no model of a bilingual and multicultural community. Confederation rolled back Canadian history to the Age of Discovery when explorers claimed as theirs the territory they had “discovered” and displaced or destroyed the people living on the newly-discovered territory.
By 1848, the “great ministry” was granted the responsible government Canada had sought since the Constitutional Act of 1791. I agree with John Ralston Saul. Canada was born long before 1867.
John A. Macdonald took his inspiration for shaping Canada from the increasingly large and successful British Empire. He, therefore, subjected Canadians to an Age of Imperialism. Yet, in 1774, under the Quebec Act, the French in Canada governed themselves and did not have to include a religion when pledging allegiance to their new Monarch. As noted above, matters changed with the arrival in the current Canada of United Empire Loyalists. Their world was British. In the case of John A. Macdonald, the world spoke English and consisted of Orangemen.
Although one cannot read into the future, one can suppose that Canada would have grown into a more bilingual and multicultural land had John A. Macdonald created equality between provinces. We are uncovering the body of Amerindian children molested in Residential Schools and we are facing the probable passage of yet another language law: Bill 96, An Act respecting French the official and common language of Quebec.
French-speaking Canadians have a right to protect their language. It has been made into the language of a threatened minority by John A. Macdonald, a Father of Confederation who was a narrow-minded and prejudiced member of the Orange Order. French-speaking Canadians find their origin in one of the world’s finer cultures.
I oppose language laws. They are the business of accountants. Yet, as distasteful as they are, language laws exist because of persons such as Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau who, in early November 2021, addressed the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in English only. The Quiet Revolution occurred in the 1960s and the Official Languages Act (Canada) was passed in 1969. Yet, more than half a century later, in 2021, there are CEOs such as Michael Rousseau who have yet to realize that Canada has two official languages.
How long will it take for the CEO (PDG) of senior corporations to acknowledge the bilingual status of Canada, the country they inhabit? And how long will it take for the truth to be told and understood? French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec were not given the opportunity to be educated in their mother tongue. They may have been destined to be a minority, but they were also forced into that position. John A. Macdonald himself separated Quebec.
I am a bilingual Canadian and my ancestry is diverse: European, British and Amerindian. During the course of my career, I have worked as a University Teacher of French and have served as President of the Canadian Association of University and College Teachers of French, l’APFUCC.
Members of l’APFUCC teach French but they do not, to my knowledge, advocate universal bilingualism in Canada. However, French-speaking Canadians expect respect on the part of English-speaking Canadians and so do English-speaking Canadians on the part of French-speaking Canadians. That is a minimum.
Let me state again that I oppose language laws, but I also bemoan the arrogance Air Canada CEO (PDG) Michael Rousseau displayed in early November when he addressed the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in English. He ignored the Official Languages Act (Canada) of 1969.
Michael Rousseau’s mistake does not justify putting language laws into place, nor do John A. Macdonald’s prejudices, but both cases show why Quebec passes language laws hindering rather than promoting knowledge of French in Canada, which is sad.
Michael Rousseau is a lost cause, and it seems there are too many Michael Rousseaus: arrogant, insensitive, etc.
Would that Confederation had not separated the people of Quebec from other Canadians, but we have to play with the hand we are dealt. Why didn’t monsieur Rousseau invite a French-speaking Canadian to join him when he addressed the Montreal Chamber of Commerce? It would have been courteous. More importantly, why did the executive of Air Canada, the largest airline company in this country, not take into account that Canada is an officially bilingual country and accommodate this reality. In Canada, French is not a foreign language.
Would, moreover, that French-speaking Canadians devoted more time to promoting in Canada a richer brand of French, it goes both ways, despite the odds. The world speaks English.
We cannot undo the past, but the future is for us to determine, which we can do humbly…