Speak White

Caoibec - Québec
Caoibec – Québec

Canada’s National Post newspaper, a staunchly federalist (aka. “Unionist”) publication, carries a typically angry tirade by the writer and presenter Dan Delmar against laws in his home territory of Québec promoting equality between Francophone and Anglophone citizens. Delmar argues that such regulations are needlessly onerous and that:

“…sympathetic allies in media are all too willing to indulge arguments that have been, and continue to be, rooted in ethnocentrism over science.

There is little, if any, definitive evidence available to suggest that linguistic minorities learn and adopt a language more effectively when it is displayed with “marked predominance,”…

No demographer studying Quebec has proven, to my knowledge, that “predominant” French signage or marketing content noticeably increased the use of the language among non-Francophones.”

All of which is highly debatable, to say the least. Hence the author’s use of the get-out-of-jail clause, “to my knowledge”; a caveat which can cover a multitude of rhetorical sins. There is in fact a wealth of evidence proving that bilingual signage and documentation in both the public and private sectors greatly aids the acceptance and dissemination of minority languages. Or for that matter, majority ones too. Common sense alone tells us that if non-Francophone minorities are regularly exposed to the French language in their daily lives they will eventually become familiar with it. Which is of course what happens in predominantly English-speaking societies with non-English-speaking minorities. Delmar’s arguments are flawed from the get-go since he engages in a tactic he accuses others of employing: shaping and siphoning the facts to suit a desired ideological outcome. An outcome that is simply a more sophisticated and carefully couched version of the old Anglophone admonition to Francophones in Québec: “Speak White!

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4 comments

  1. French in Quebec is as white as snow on apple pie. I’m my perfect little world, the Indigenous Naitons and the Québécois form an alliance against the British Crown and secede. But, in reality, when the Indigenous nations are exchanging bullets with Crown forces, the curses hurled at the natives are in French. I mean, how would we feel if the 6 counties declared themselves an independent Presbyterian theocracy with Ulster Scots as the only official language. Would we be happy that, well, at least they stuck it to the Anglicans!? Here is one example of what signs in Québec SHOULD look like: http://www.qnetnews.ca/studentworks/allison/languagepage.html

    1. The French Quebecois are descendents of people who massacred the native Hurons, Iriquois, Mohicans etc, took their land and imposed themselves on people who did not want them. They were in turn conquered by the Brits, who, on the whole treated em with kid gloves.

      I would not claim to be an expert here, having only spent a couple of months working in Canada, but the overwhelming impression I got from the Anglophone people in Toronto was that the Canadian Frogs were the most whinging, miserable, unappeasable people that God ever made: always, always, always, complaining, perfectly happy to take subsidies from the federal govt,never made a positive suggestion as to how the country could be improved, never tried to reach any kind of compromise: the street signs in Toronto were all bilingual: a total waste of money since nobody within 500 miles spoke a word of French, but had to be done in order to keep a bunch of distant activists happy.

      1. I also don’t understand why the OP sides with the French here.
        Both English and French are languages of invaders. And French is far from a dying language – it’s spoken by ~340 millions of people worldwide (most of which live in former French colonies) so any talks about them being an oppressed minority is nonsense.

        And I have actually done some business with people from Quebec and can confirm that some of them have really horrible English, so it’s certainly possible to live there and not speak English – something that’s nearly impossible in Ireland.

    2. Don’t disagree with any of that, a chara. I have personal reasons for looking favourably on Québec and its struggle to maintain its identity. However all that comes a poor second place to the rights of the First Peoples. If there was a strong indigenous sovereignty movement in Canada (or Québec) I would be just as fulsome in my support. More so in fact. And before you say it, yes, the Québécois have been less than forthcoming in their recognition of the First People nations or the Inuit and the ongoing tribulations over Nunavik 😉

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