Quebec, Canada: Language minister Diane De Courcy, member of the Parti Québécois, a leftist party that advocates separatism of the province of Quebec from Canada to form a sovereign state, participated in a conference in Dawson College, in Montreal. During the conference held on April 22, 2013, students listened to De Courcy’s talk about the new law which intends to strengthen French language in Quebec. The new piece of legislation, which still has to get through the national assembly, would establish that every student from the General and Vocational College, the public collegiate institutions exclusive to Quebec’s education system, have to pass a comprehensive French exam before they can enter any university in the entire country.
When confronted with this idea, many of the students addressed issues concerning their own freedom to choose a university to attend, than about their level of French, which they might not even use at a university level, depending on their post-secondary institution of choice. The legislation is intended to extend Quebecers’ use of the French language beyond the level needed for everyday living. To the students’ complaints, De Courcy argues that the government is in favor of cultural and linguistic diversity, but clarifies that only if French is the working language in Quebec.
More about the Bill
The new law is intended to build on Bill 101, the Charter of the French Language, which defines French as the official language of Quebec and defines the province’s language rights. Many Anglophones in Quebec regard the new law as an attack to their own rights and as an attempt to downgrade the position of English language in the province. The bill is considered by many as a strong separatist force and a straightforward attack to the Anglophone sector of the community.
Two Opposing Views
On the one hand, Francophones support the new legislation in an attempt to protect their mother tongue in a country with a majority of English speakers. On the other hand, English speakers, who are a growing minority in Quebec, consider the legislation an unnecessary attack towards those who speak English but are, in fact, as much of a Quebecer as anybody else. Running underneath the discussion is the fear that the new bill serves to consolidate the use of language as a criteria to condition education and educational standards.