Current Affairs Politics

Pauline Marois And A Step Too Far?

One has to wonder if the latest pronouncements by the Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois are likely to win or loose votes for the poll-leading nationalist party in the upcoming provincial elections in Québec. Yes, there does seems to be a genuine desire amongst the Francophone majority for a greater commitment to the French language and culture in the public and private life of La Belle Province. However whether that stretches to the somewhat draconian measures proposed by the lacklustre Marois is debatable. Though she has previously made an outreach to the Anglophone and non-French speaking communities of Québec that good work has, arguably, more or less been undone with her recent statements.

From the (admittedly partisan) Sun News:

“Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois is hammering a familiar target once again – English Quebecers and their language.

She says that if elected Sept. 4, her separatist party will require all non-francophones to be proficient in French if they want to run for public office.

On a campaign stop in Montreal, the PQ leader said she plans to reintroduce a bill on Quebec citizenship that sets out clear rules about who has the right to run in municipal and provincial elections.

Anyone who doesn’t have an adequate knowledge of French might be barred from running, whether they’re a recent immigrant or a longtime English Quebecer who hasn’t mastered French.

“In Quebec, French is the common language, the language of the majority,” said Marois.

She added that the citizenship bill would apply to all candidates, even those in English municipalities or native communities, many of which are English-speaking.

She had kicked off her campaign earlier this month by inviting English-speaking Quebecers to vote for her party – something few have ever done.

Marois later changed her tone, promising to create a new language law that would force companies with more than 10 employees to conduct business entirely in French.

Even French Quebecers would be ensnared by the beefed-up language laws, which would bar francophones from attending English-language junior colleges.”

As admiring of the Québécois movement as I am, and sympathetic to Pauline Marois’ vision of a French-speaking and bilingual polity, I am doubtful of her suggested restrictions on democratic representation, which may well prove counterproductive. Amongst public servants, those working in state bodies and on the state payroll, an ability to speak French is an obvious prerequisite but it smacks of intolerance to impose that within the electoral sphere. Public pressure and electoral need should require politicians to be conversant in French, whether as native speakers or learners, not legislation.

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2 comments on “Pauline Marois And A Step Too Far?

  1. It will be interesting to see how this evolves this week. Clearly the article is biased and another article from the same family of newspapers saying the liberals (not the more obvious CAQ )are now in the lead after a *fantastic* showing in the debates by Premier Charest (somehow the National Post was the only one to see that) may not be completely unrelated.
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/08/22/quebec-liberals-take-lead-over-pq-after-weekend-leaders-debate-poll/
    (Notice the picture of the two autonomist leaders Marois and David shaking hands)

    The mention of native communities in the English language Toronto Sun article is quite misleading playing on linguistic fuzziness of the word community which can mean City/town or recognized “Native Reservation of Federal Jursidiction on Crown Land where the Indians have the official status of wards of the state” . But Quebec recognizes Aboriginal self determination, (since 1977) and in the “communautés autochtones/Reservations” well, they have their own system of governance. They have their own versions of Bill 101 etc. For all Mayors/councilors of cities in Québec and AM at the assembly a basic knowledge of French would be required.

    According to Marois, the linguistic tests have not been prepared, however they would use the same system used in Canada for newcomers to test their skills in English and French. (Funny how it seems perfectly OK the other way around)

    Finally(?), since the vast majority of Anglophones speak French in Québec, this gesture is mainly symbolic.

    «Il n’y a pas de test oral ou écrit de prévus», a-t-elle dit, avant d’ajouter qu’elle établirait une façon de faire, un peu comme le gouvernement fédéral mesure la connaissance de l’une des deux langues officielles des immigrants avant de leur accorder la citoyenneté.

    http://www.24hmontreal.canoe.ca/24hmontreal/actualites/archives/2012/08/20120821-180621.html

    All that said, not sure if I’m in favour of this. This is quite novel.

    • Thanks for the Comment and links, Jean François, informative as always.

      While I understand and sympathise with Marois’ position I believe she is going too far in proposing regulated language tests for elected politicians. It just smacks of authoritarianism and must be surely counter-productive in terms of the anglophone, indigenous or allophone communities.

      I can’t help but feel that this has been a serious misjudgement on her part. Yes, it makes perfect sense that people working in the civil service or public bodies in Québec have at the very least a basic understanding of French. I can see the sense in regulations and fluency tests here (if coupled with subsidised education programs and help for those who wish to become bilingual). I also agree with enhancing and building upon Bill 101. But banning someone from standing for election based upon their inability to speak French or preventing them taking elected office if voted in by the electorate? It just feels wrong.

      If you want to write a longer response about this (in French or English), or anything else on the Québec elections, please email me an article and I’ll post it here, no problem 🙂

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