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How should future generations contend with the French-English divide? Has this divide changed over the past 20 years, if yes how so? Essay

As a part of Quebec’s youth and up and coming younger generation I have witnessed the conflicts between the French- English divide since I could remember and it is important that the needs of both sides are full filled or at least compensated for, future generations need to focus on other issues and need to resolve the French-English divide in a fashionable matter so that both sides can work together and benefit from each other such as the increase of speaking French in schools and businesses.

Cleavages are defined as “a politically significant distinction among identifiable groups in a given population” (L7, S5). Language is an important cleavage in Canadian society (L7, S6), Canada is known to being a diverse country the population consists of many different types of people, cultural backgrounds and value systems each of which should be respected and tolerated by every citizen of this country. The English-French divide has persisted over time as a result of events and decisions by governing bodies that have continued to fuel the divide (L7, S7).

There are different solutions to the language issue among French and English speakers but it takes time and although the divide has changed a lot, the past 20 years we aren’t where we want to be just yet and it is up to future generations to solve this problem. Further issues such as the compact vs contract theory will be discussed and also in recent news the dispute over the Charter of values the Pauline Marois government seek to put in effect that has sprung up a dispute other issues that will be discussed are Bill 101 and the disputes over the equalization of payments that has become a major topic for discussion and a large part of the French-English division if future generations were to resolve these topics they would be one step closer to a neutral decision.

The language divide has played a key part in intergovernmental policies between the federal government and the provinces and is therefore an important part to understand. We’ve learnt throughout history that the English have often attempted to assimilate the French (L7, S8) you don’t often see the English trying to preserve the French language and this resulted in a heated battle among English and French especially in the late 1800’s and late 1900’s where the divide had intensified and almost seemed imminent.

In a video demonstrated in the lecture slides (L7, S8) former premier of Quebec (2001-2003) Bernard Landry and former leader of the Parti Québécoise points out that 75% of Anglos in Quebec speak both French and English and almost all the younger generations speak both language and admits this is a great improvement.

Part of Quebec’s problem is that you can become a citizen by speaking English or French this is a problem for the Quebecoise because people are coming from different countries with just an English background, if there was a divide they would make it so that if you were to become a Quebec resident speaking French would be mandatory. Preserving the French language has been a top priority for Quebec. The French lived in constant fear of losing their language (L7, S8) so in order to preserve the French language and culture the appropriate decision the Parti Quebecoise have decided to do is to promote separatism.

There was talk of the separation of Quebec from Canada being more of a sovereignty-association, Quebec would separate but would retain a political and economic association with Canada. They would share the same currency and have some joint governments to oversee their relations. Quebec would not really be independent it would actually rely heavily on both Canada and the United States for trade. Quebec would then be able to change the language laws so that French would be the first language. This could be a good decision but there’s a large amount of English speaking Quebec citizens who disapprove.

Bernard Landry points out that Quebec has improved over the years and that he has seen a lot more Anglo’s speaking French as well but he points out that it is a different issue in different provinces. Being an English speaker myself it is very encouraging and helpful that I am perfectly bilingual, being bilingual has helped me in the work force, in my studies and in my social life.

These are some factors that have English speaking Quebecers speak more French and really made an impact among English and French speakers of Quebec. In Bernard Landry’s video he talks about speaking to his cousins that live in British Columbia and displays how they have lost their French Background it is in the Parti Quebecoise best interest to prevent this from happening.

As we have seen, la survivance was the notion that fuelled traditional Quebec nationalism. The Quiet Revolution gave rise to a new type of nationalism in Quebec which had a different vision of the state and its ability, through its institutions, to help the French survive (L7, S49). The French-English divide was further aggravated when the Quebec government decided to use its institutions to implement legislation to ensure the survival of the French language in Quebec.

This caused a great deal of controversy in English .In an attempt to counter such nationalist language tactics and appease the French, the federal government also used its institutions to enact legislation related to language. There is no doubt that the French-English divide has been fuelled by these issues (L7, S58). After all these events had taken place the French took action into preserving the French language and culture and to implement it on all of Quebec.

The Quebec Board of the French Language (OQLF) more popularly known as the ‘language police’ by the English media are probably the most feared people to business owners. In Quebec, Bill 101 implements that all visible form of writing must be in French, there are strict laws that indicate that the French words have to be visually larger than any other language as well as businesses more than 50 employees were going to have to adjust and use French as their language of business (L7, S59).

Maintaining the two official languages is not cheap. Even Canada’s current Prime Minister Stephen Harper commented on the cost of bilingualism even before he was elected as the prime minister. These factors have played a major role in the changes Quebec has had over the years and I have noticed it myself. The divide has changed a lot of the years and with Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecoise who knows what will happen next.

The French and English divide is becoming less and less of a problem in Quebec although tensions have been rising lately with the PQ it is in their interest to keep the French population in Quebec happy and to keep pushing new legislations to enforce the speaking of the French language. Although it is a great approach to preserve the language you could say that the language police have taken it a step too far at some points with disputes and attempted ban of these words in restaurants such as “pasta” and “fish n chips”.

The Anglo’s have a hard time dealing with disputes such as these knowing our tax dollars are being spent on non-sense such as the banning of those words. In all I think it is important to implement that business owners change their signs and put in place a French first basis and plays a big factor in today’s language battle and it is a large reason why a lot of Quebecers are speaking French first. I myself walk in a place of business and speak French first to the clerk, when I am working myself I introduce myself in French first and I adapt to whomever I am talking too whether or not they are French or English it is important to respect the language of other people.

In recent news a large dispute has sprung up with the “Charter or Values” Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois brought up the idea of banning religious symbols and dress codes when at work. This includes the Christian cross, Jewish and Muslim headwear, hijabs, turbans, etc. As the government expected, the plan to introduce the Chater of Value’s created street protests. Situations like these aren’t helping the French and English division it has strung up protests and aggravates the English speakers these aren’t ways to increase French speaking and culture in Quebec it had fuelled the fire in a way and bring us a step back from where we would like to be in the English – French division.

The linguistic battle among French- English has improved in Quebec over the past 20 years with French being highly implemented in schools and businesses but I couldn’t say that for the rest of the provinces. These are ways to further increase the population of French speaking Canadians, future generations should focus on increasing French in schools and businesses rather than try to force the language on people with new legislations and fines.

We have seen improvements over the past 20 years and that should continue if other provinces were to adapt more the French language in their place of business and in schools you would see a large increase in the population of Canada that speak French rather than just Quebec.

Bernard Landry, former Premier of Quebec (2001 – 2003) and leader of the Parti Québécois (2001 – 2005 Brooks, Stephen (2004) “Canadian Democracy – An Introduction 6th edition” Oxford University Press: Toronto. PP.187-189 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/is-pasta-french-enough-for-quebec-1.1301918

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