Trying to make sense of Quebec’s new language act, Bill 96, the other day, it raised the question of what would happen if this type of bill was enacted in Ontario. It is a silly question. Ontario goes out of its way to encourage people speaking French to be able to receive provincial services in that language. It might not always be successful but the provincial people do try.
But we can hardly imagine the hue and cry if the same commercial sign laws were imposed in Ontario as in Quebec. Much of the character of Toronto would be lost without the proliferation of languages on commercial signs in areas of the city offering the diverse foods and products of the world.
I have always regretted the lack of attention I paid to French language classes in high school and despite concentrated tutoring in French as an adult, I remain a sesquilingual anglophone. Nobody seems impressed with my ability to read both sides of a cereal box. Mind you, I have always enjoyed talking with sesquilingual francophones. It can cause considerable hilarity.
But to deny French-language services to a population in some areas that might be somewhat less than 50 per cent French-speaking would be considered to be unreasonable and waspish in Ontario. Many in the English-language community would support their Franco-Ontarian confreres.
It would be unlikely that much would change in Quebec if the province dropped some of its more draconian language and religious symbol laws. The provincial law makers need to understand the difference between a carrot and a stick. I think they would do far better encouraging French in the workplace than some of these laws that have to be exempted from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But then, Canadian anglophones tend to be more impressed with our charter rights and freedoms than francophones. It seems that getting the courts involved is starting to get our politicians to write better laws. It is something that should catch on across the country.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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