lundi, novembre 05, 2007

Un système néo-colonial

J'en ai appris l'existence par La Presse de ce matin. Combien d'argent dépensé pour cette institution ennemie; combien pour leurs hôpitaux ?
Just over a week ago, as things seemed to be simmering in the wake of Hérouxville headlines, Parti Québecois leader Pauline Marois dropped Bill 195 into the National Assembly-a bill proposing that Quebec issue its own citizenship. Not to supersede Canadian citizenship, just to complement it in order to unify Francophones and Anglophones. To establish a clearly defined "we".

That and it would require all new Quebeckers to learn French within three years of immigration or suffer the consequences.

Quebec citizenship as described in Bill 195 would by its very nature create two tiers of Quebec immigrants. There would be the loyal patriotes, those who fell in line with Quebec language, culture and broader identity, and then there would be those who failed to assimilate. The former group would be entitled to full social benefits and respect, while the latter would be barred from holding public office at any level, raising funds for political parties or petitioning the National Assembly for redress of a grievance. PQ language critic Pierre Curzi stated recently in a radio interview with shock-jockey Gilles Proulx that a sovereign Quebec could and would strip unilingual Anglophones (specifically West Islanders) of their voting rights, but has since retracted his comments. In other countries, similar policies have also been known as "apartheid," but Marois (doubtless concerned with the term coming across as a little un-sexy) has gone with the name "identity act" instead.

But I'm not here to talk about neo-fascism. I've chosen to speak instead on the content of Bill 195. Clearly, this bill is geared towards assimilating foreign nationals into Quebec culture, but setting these kinds of standards and imposing consequences for failure to adhere to them does indeed beg the question: Would many Quebeckers even qualify for Quebec citizenship?

Foremost, citizenship would require Quebeckers to have solid working knowledge of French. Already the alarm bells are ringing. Though it's unclear how many Quebec adults are functionally illiterate, most surveys and studies place the figure between 20 and 25 per cent. This means that one of every four or five Quebeckers cannot read or write beyond an eighth grade level. Even for the lucky three-quarters, the language being spoken here is a distant, bastardized cousin of its European ancestor. Would Marois insist that immigrants learn local idioms such as "icitte" or "m'ah-te dire," use personal pronouns such as "moé" and "twoié," or refer to automobiles as "chars" or "minounes"? There are a few mentions in Bill 195 of revitalizing the promotion of strong spoken and written French in the Quebec curriculum, which would be commendable if it weren't for the fact that Pierre Elliott Trudeau has been touting the necessity of "re-learning French" since the late 1960s. But of course, Quebeckers took all that with a grain of salt because Trudeau was a traitor and a deserter.

There's also this stretch of Bill 195 (one of my personal favourites), about how Quebec citizens must pledge allegiance to the Quebec constitution, which doesn't exist yet, but will soon in order to free us from the shackles of the imperialistic Canadian Charter that has been keeping us down for a quarter-century. Interesting indeed, given that Quebec's provincial government has never recognized Canada's 1982 Constitution Act but still blissfully enjoys all the rights and freedoms it provides. So much for practicing what you preach.

Regarding Bill 195's provisions for the teaching of Quebec history and culture, I doubt the majority of native Quebeckers know in what year the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place, where the first French settlement was located or who the first provincial premier was. As for Quebec culture, just read up on Céline Dion, Les Boys and Le Bonhomme Carnaval and you'll have all your bases covered.

Bill 101 has inadvertently cheated a generation of Francophone kids from a place in an increasingly globalized job market that values bilingualism and has little to no use for folks who can't speak their mother tongue properly. The sad truth, and what Marois fails to realize, is that Quebeckers need to fulfill the requirements of Bill 195 more than immigrants do.

Quebec's apartheid politics, Ben Lemieux, The McGill Tribune, 30 octobre 2007

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