Thursday, June 24, 2010


The endless debates about language rights in Quebec will probably go on forever. 
"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?
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. We were promoting the very simple, logical, democratic, civilized plan that all children in Canada be taught English and French together in a secular school system.
School subjects would be divided up 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.
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". Then she declared the convention closed before the scheduled discussion on Education in Quebec could be brought to the floor. All this was reported in the newspapers and on television, in spite of the fact that the Liberal whips seized the reporters' tape recordings.
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 was broadcast across Canada on the CBC TV National News.
Those with strong separatist interests would not allow the concept of equal education 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.
And now, in the 21st Century, here we go again ! Plus ca change.
You may learn to speak French skillfully, even beautifully, but Quebec extremists will never accept you as their equals. Your family may be citizens for a hundred years, but you will never be accepted by separatist extremists as anything but an outsider.
The neverendums will occur and reoccur ad infinitum, and those who are able and have the resources will continue to leave Quebec until the separatists succeed in creating the closed, pure laine society they really want.

No comments: