A week from today, Quebecers will decide who will form the next provincial government. That has obviously put pressure on all the political parties to pull out every weapon imaginable to gain as much support during the home stretch of their campaigns. Critics all have different opinions on the parties and how they’ve performed in the past month. One of those critics is journalist and filmmaker Joanne Marcotte.
Marcotte is known for lifting the veil off of Quebec politics and showing the public just how complex, confusing and hypocritical it can be. She was a former Journal de Montréal/Québec journalist until she was fired just before it was announced that former Québecor Media CEO, Pierre Karl Péladeau, would be running as a candidate for the Parti Québecois. Québecor is the parent company of Journal.
This past week, after Québec Liberal leader, Philippe Couillard, took what is seen as an unpopular public stance in support of bilingualism during the last television debates via TVA, Marcotte published some interesting information on her blog. She referenced a 1992 interview between Time magazine and Jacques Parizeau. That article includes a quote from the former Parti Québecois leader and Québec premier on the subject of bilingualism.
Q. How would a free Quebec deal with English and French languages?
A. Well, we have been committed since the notorious–some would say–bill of 1977 [declaring French to be Quebec’s official language] to set up a society that functions in French. Does that mean that Quebecois should not learn English? By God, I’ll boot the rear end of anyone who can’t speak English. In our day and times, a small people like us must speak English.
Somehow the world didn’t implode after Parizeau made the statement. However, last week, Couillard took a beating from his opponents, for suggesting that it would benefit workers who might come in contact with English-speaking clients to be bilingual in both French and English.
It’s interesting that Couillard’s position was criticized very heavily by Québec Solidaire, the CAQ and the PQ, because in 2008, there was a nationalist who took a brave step and talked about the importance of bilingualism, particularly in our schools. Nationalists had a fit after current Quebec premier Pauline Marois made the following statement, which appeared in the Montreal Gazette in addition to other media:
All Quebec parents dream of their children having a good knowledge of a second language, and English is the language that is most useful to us.
Marois even went on to admit that there was poor English-language instruction in French schools and that this could be the reason many Francophone students were flocking to English CEGEPS. She was then called a traitor in an article via Le Devoir.
It’s interesting how short-term the memory is of Quebec nationalists. And, the truth is that all parents in Quebec do want their children to have the best advantages when it comes to education. There should be no shame in admitting this. After all, both Parizeau and Marois did prior to Couillard.
You can see more of Joanne Marcotte’s thoughts on the current electoral campaigns, including her opinion on 89-year-old Janette Bertrand’s outlandish statement regarding “rich McGill students.” We also strongly recommend you watch Marcotte’s independently-produced documentary available in French as well as in English.
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