STATISTICS CANADA CENSUS ERROR AROUSED FEAR THAT ENGLISH IN QUEBEC IS NOT BEING AS WAS PREDICTED BY ENGLISH LEADERS AND PLANNED BY FRENCH POLITICAL LEADERSHIP, AND DESIRED BY THE FAR RIGHT
By Dr. Clarence Bayne
For a short period of time on the weekend of August 11, Donald Trump’s threat to obliterate North Korea and Kim Jong-Un’s counter-offensive rant that America is a “lump” that North Korea will beat into jello was upstaged by the news of the survival and even growth of English speaking persons in Quebec.
A Statistics Canada census reports that the numbers of the English speaking peoples in Quebec were on the dramatic rise throughout Quebec like a BC wild fire and hit the world stage with a tsunami of emotions.
The English speaking villages and suburban neighbourhoods were caught in the tidal impact and heat of the amazing and surprising news that the number of Anglophones in Quebec have grown to the extent that it now exceeded its importance (in proportions) in the total Quebec population compared with what it was in 2011.
Then like the tsunami it was gone, leaving behind the wreckage of fear and rage in the streets of Quebec City.
Now you would think news of an increase in English speaking populations would make the protectors of the vitality and fitness of the English speaking population happy. You would think that they would receive this news initially with elation. That there would be dancing in the streets of the cities and townships. After all, it would confirm that their institutional and political leaders are making headways in the struggle to sustain and improve the vitality of the English speaking communities in Quebec. Instead, the largest group representing Quebec-English-speaking community groups announced that it was “shocked and skeptical.” A spokesperson for QCGN stated, “This bowls us over, because that’s not what we were expecting.” Demographer, Jack Jedwab described the increases as impossible, “I don’t know where the people are coming from,” he said. As it turns out, Jack Jedwab’s questioning of the accuracy of the data correctly pointed to a flaw in the statistical computation and classification system of Statistics Canada.
But what initially many of us heard coming from both the French and English political and institutional leadership is panic. On the part of the English leadership the responses underpinned the fear that the French left are going to seek to punish the English and destroy their institutions for having survived and even grown beyond what French Quebec would consider acceptable and within the invisible limits set by the “notwithstanding clause,” the calculated and planned constraints of Bill 101, and the tolerances of the Linguistic Minorities Act.
The English institutional and political leadership went into what a McGill study on decision-making strategies for English-speaking leaders describe as a “Stand Back” leadership mode.
Meanwhile, the French left and conservative leadership resorted to its aggressive offensive “Pennian” systemic exclusion and Brexit isolation strategies. The PQ leader immediately promised a language crackdown if elected: he proposed a new language law, Bill 202, to combat what they immediately perceived to be a decline in French culture and language.
A Gazette article reported that Jean Francois Lisée proposes introducing Bill 202, which would oblige all future immigrants to demonstrate they have a good knowledge of French.
Further to that, says the Gazette, he would require that both large and medium-sized companies operate entirely in French. The proposed bill would also require students at English-language CEGEPs and universities to pass a French test before graduation.
I remember that as a high school student in Trinidad and Tobago, the British colonialists used exactly the latter education policy in the Caribbean and other colonies during the dark days of colonialism and crown colony government as part of their race superiority thesis of nation-building and the White formula for the creation of advanced civilizations.
We had to read, write, and speak white. Failure in any of the components of English meant the denial of certification. I fear this is what is being attempted here in Quebec, a sort of modern and Quebecoise version and philosophy of a residential school system for English and non-French minorities.
The White French elitist left leadership wears the coats of the early French settler classes of Quebec. They see themselves as the conquering class that brought European civilization to Quebec and to the Indigenous peoples. They see themselves as one of a conquering duo, two master races. The other being the British. They seek equal opportunity and their shared right to rule Canada, and if necessary in their separate geographies. Thirty to forty percent of their population speaks with the tongue of Arthur de Gobineau (La Renaissance,1877).
They are very clear in what they want: to ultimately get rid of the English influences in their midst. That would not be possible in the ultimate physical genocidal sense. But everything about the policies of the Quebec left and the far right suggest a strategy of linguistic colonization as an approximation of physical elimination, cultural isolation, neglect of the history and contributions of all non-French persons, anti-immigrant.
Under the guise of the protection of the French language and culture, they skilfully seek to manage the linguistic and nation gene pool by the application of restrictive immigration policies that block English immigrants to Quebec, and de facto engage in a politic of systemic exclusion and discrimination.
To support this they have been daring in their use of the constitutional tool of the ‘notwithstanding clause,’ propped up by the quasi-constitutional Linguistic Minorities Act and bolstered by the Education Act.
What the panic in English Quebec over the Statistics Canada census error suggests to me is that the English leadership feared that the protectors of the French language and culture would most likely be attracted towards greater extremes; maybe limiting the birth rate of the English; perhaps even encouraging the creation of laws that restrict English family sizes by adopting the past Chinese failed policy of one child per family.
Nevertheless, ridiculous as that might sound, the history of the debate on immigration in this country over the last 50 years supports the view that French leaders on the left and their echoes on the far right would support shutting the door on all English immigration to Quebec and even Canada as a whole. That is certainly a possible and logical conclusion to the underlying fears expressed and the persistent demands for redress of the suggested threat of the English presence to French culture.
In fact, the persistence of this claim has earned French Quebec the right to choose its own immigrants. In the Black community we certainly note the dramatic shrinkage of immigrants from the English speaking Caribbean.
Moreover, French leadership has used the notwithstanding clause to justify a multitude of systemic and blatant injustices tolerated by a National policy aimed at guaranteeing the preservation of the French culture and language in an elsewhere bilingual and multicultural Canada.
Minorities in Quebec pay the price for Confederation and social harmony. In this divided house, the “otherized” us are condemned to serve our time as residents, not full deciding citizens, in the cultural prisons and schools of these two occupying “nations.” At least, that is how the indigenous peoples see them, and by extension us.
We, the others, dwell in these two houses, where in the logic of Frantz Fanon our loyalties are bought by a system of rewards or simply denied. Yes. We are also guilty by virtue of the fact that we do not speak out against it (we stand back).
We are also guilty because our struggles for equality have been conducted and articulated singularly as our particular rights to an equal sharing in the wealth generated by the two houses, at the expense and continued elimination of the Indigenous peoples.
We share that burden of responsibility, no matter how we got here and whatever our points of origin: England, France, Spain, the Caribbean, Africa, Syria, Iran, Italy, Greece or even refugees from Trump’s USA.