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.