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CAQ building a linguistic wall around Quebec

October 25th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Carl Hagar

The assault on the English-speaking population of Quebec by mean-spirited Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) operatives continues. Doubling tuition fees for foreign students coming to English universities rouses the CAQ base but harms the reputation of Quebec as a forward-thinking place to live.

Language in Quebec is on an evolutionary path. Die-hard francophones do not recognize nor accept that change is inevitable. They would rather build a linguistic wall around Quebec than contemplate living and sharing with their linguistic neighbours.

The anglophone community in Quebec is about 10 per cent of the population…yet it is targeted as the enemy of the French language. Clearly, far greater forces at work are creating the strain on French use in Quebec.

Unlike France, Quebec sits born of two cultures in a continent driven by the English language.

Quebec language laws are enacted to minimize the use of English. Institutions such as school boards are targeted. Watchdog agencies monitor store fronts to ensure French, not English, gets prominent display. Now, foreign students coming to Quebec to study in anglophone universities are seeing their tuition fees doubled. They cause “too much English being spoken in downtown Montreal.”

The CAQ Minister for Higher Studies says that Quebec is subsidizing these foreign students, so tuition fee hikes were necessary. By increasing their tuition fees, a new budgetary equilibrium will be established. Furthermore, French language institutions will receive part of the new fees to help them with their budgets. That’s the narrow-minded official rationale.

This initiative has motivated CAQ government ministers to laud the fee move as a great anti-English move. The aim of the CAQ message to Quebecers is two-fold: one aim is to ensure a strong anti-English policy posture, which is deemed vote-rich; the other aim is ostensibly to bolster the use of French. But constructive government measures are rarely seen; attacks are the order of the day.

The minister responsible is now saying she wants to talk with these universities. Why haven’t discussions preceded these draconian moves?

Will these new fees deter foreign students from attending Bishop’s, McGill and Concordia? If the answer is yes, then the revenue expected by the government will not materialize, to the detriment of Quebec’s French universities. Meanwhile, the loss of students will jeopardize the very existence of these anglophone institutions of higher learning. Who in Quebec wins in that scenario?

There will be more draconian measures against the use of the English language enacted into law. There are French language proponents who want to build a linguistic wall around Quebec. Will we tell American, European and African visitors to Quebec they must only speak French once inside Quebec’s border? Will our advertising declare, “Only French-speaking people need to apply to visit Quebec?” Hardly rational.

Quebec is not ready to accept the reality of a new linguistic reality. Only in a more mature Quebec, in a future Quebec, will linguistic peace be found.

Carl Hager is a volunteer driver in Pontiac and a member of the NDP Pontiac executive.

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