Saturday, June 12, 2010


"Free Man Chokes on Force-Fed Language" - That was what my poster read decades ago when I joined the throng on Parliament Hill to protest Quebec's oppressive language laws. A photograph of that demonstration showing my sign appeared in The Montreal Star in 1971.
Pauline Marois, Parti Quebecois leader now dares to say, " It is not acceptable to send this message, that it is possible to have free choice. " (June 7, 2010). She says this without hesitation or shame. The people who are paying her salary don't have the right to free choice! In Canada in the 21st Century! I can just see all the intelligent, wealthy, young and healthy people - English and French - heading for the airport and the highway west. Where have we seen this before? Plus ca change !
It never fails to amaze me how anyone living in a free country can accept the fact that they are denied the right to choose the languages their children may learn. Immigrants having suffered tyranny in their own homeland may be grateful just to be alive in any language. But that native Canadians accept such bigotry is a real puzzler.
French is such a lovely, expressive language. Why do the separatists feel it has to be forced on their own people ?
Action Democratique de Quebec party leader, Gerald Deltel, now says that Quebec schools should teach English from the sixth grade.
In the mid-1960's Dr. Henry Morgenthaler appointed me a director of The Committee for Neutral Schools. I served with him for two years. What we were promoting was the very simple, logical, democratic, civilized plan that all children in Canada be taught English and French in a secular school system.
Everyone would be treated equally. School subjects would be divided up fairly and taught in either English or French, or English could be taught in the morning and French in the afternoon. So simple really. Everyone would come out of school completely bilingual. Young people of all backgrounds would make friends throughout their school years. A recipe for peace and respect and progress.
In October, 1965, I appeared on CFCF Radio with David Bassett on "Talk of Montreal" and on his television show, "Nite Cap". In January, 1966, I was interviewed on CBC  T.V.'s "Calendar", and on CBM Radio by B.J. Cannings. I presented the obvious merits of such a simple, open program of education. But those with strong separatist interests would not allow the concept to be considered. They were hell bent on ensuring that "pure laine" children not learn English. Yes, English speaking children would learn both French and English, but French speaking children would be denied. Guess who lost out.
As a delegate to a Quebec Liberal Convention at the Chateau Frontenac in 1971, I promoted the idea of bilingual education for all Canadians. At the plenary session, the secretary at the table on the stage declared before all the delegates that her children would learn English over her dead body.
At that point I destroyed my membership card. This scene was captured by the CBC camera under the supervision of producer, Stephen Phizicky, and it was seen from Vancouver to Prince Edward Island, in spite of the efforts of the Liberal whips to confiscate all the tapes that other reporters had made of my actions.
The associate editor of The North Shore News, Evelyn St. Pierre, was the one who told me later about the whips taking the tapes away from the reporters. But the CBC report went through because, even though the whips had pulled the plug on their camera, it continued to record on batteries without their knowledge and the entire scene was broadcast across Canada on the CBC TV National News.
The vital subject of Education in Quebec that had been discussed all weekend in workshops was cut from the printed plenary session program in spite of the promises I received from two prominent members of the Quebec Liberal Government that this would not be allowed to happen.
Those in charge of the plenary session just cut off all discussion and said everyone was tired and wanted to go home. At that plenary session, delegate Winnifred Potter wept at the microphone, as did School Commissioner, John Agnew, at the way the Quebec Liberal party was butchering the English speaking delegates. All this was reported in the press at the time.
There is no logical reason for children in Quebec to be stifled, restricted, blinded to the reality of the English language. Only fear and bigotry make it possible to impose such restrictions.
Limiting children to the French language ensures a slave economy. Coming out of school, these youngsters will have a good education that they can only use effectively in Quebec, France, Louisiana and some former French colonies in Asia, perhaps.
Quebec's language laws are not about pride in heritage. They are imposed to control the minds of the simplest people. Drive out the "others" and you can control those who remain - the unilingual, brainwashed products of bigotry.
Phyllis Carter

No comments: