Breaking the “two solitudes” in the era of Bill 96 in Quebec
There “two solitudes», this entanglement of French and English Canada, is not just history. Not only tanks on Parliament Hill in 1970. Nor a chain smoker Rene Levesque waved in 1980. Or Canadian flags clenched in fists at Montreal Unity Rally in 1995.
No no — the two solitudes persist. Those “old grievances that never seem to dieare a daily newspaper. Especially if you find yourself speaking French outside the borders of Quebec, or not speaking French inside.
Bill 96, Quebec’s contentious new language law, limits the use of English in courts, health care and other public services. Dissidents argue that it is “a true test of reconciliation», imposing a second colonial language on sovereign indigenous nations. Or refugees, arriving freshly traumatized from places like Afghanistan and Ukraine, six months to learn French. In tandem with Law 21which creates “a second class of citizensFor Muslim women in particular, Law 96 enshrines inequalities. Language, it seems, is just one of many solitudes in Canada’s colonial plumage.
Historically, language laws in Canada have been devastating and, of course, have targeted those of us who don’t speak English. I understand this intimately – I am the descendant of grandparents who complied and complied with Regulation 17 in Ontario, a law that aimed to eradicate French through education at the turn of the 20th century. Where I come from, speaking French is a political gesture. A gesture of resistance. the one who says we are, we will be — we are, we will be.
What is often lost in translation in broader language law discussions is that the Canadian Francophonie is not just Quebecois. From St-Boniface in Manitoba, via Sudbury in Ontario, to Grand-Pré in Nova Scotia, our communities overflow from what many imagine to be French-speaking Canada. We have our own local cultures, rich with our own poetry and song. Our own regional and creative accents Speaking. Our own histories and political concerns that reflect the realities of what it is to be Francophone outside of Quebec.
With roots from French Canada to Africa, from the Middle East to the Caribbean, and places in between, the Canadian Francophonie is also increasingly multiracial, multicultural and multifaith. We share history and family ties with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and many of us are engaged in the important and humble work of truth and reconciliation with “all our loved ones”, including we must celebrate and honor one’s own journeys towards linguistic reappropriation.
francophones — especially those of us who consider ourselves founding people — a founding people of Canada — must take an unflinching look at how we participate in, perpetuate and profit from the systems of oppression and colonialism in Canada. Reconciliation in particular must be defended. Racism, gender discrimination and Islamophobia, challenged. The erosion of fundamental Charter rights, challenged.
Like a founding people, we have a lot of work to do. Bill 96 dishonors our heritage, the lessons that we francophones have learned with great pain over the centuries of Canadian colonial history, when our ancestors were deported, our farms completely burned, our hanged heroes, our children forced to learn in Englishour aspirations held in confidence by generations of ancestors and ancestors (our ancestors).
Should French be protected in Canada? Yes.
But consider also the burgeoning plurality of Francophones in Canada — and how, by the very nature of our increasingly diverse experiences, we can lead the way in breaking down solitudes.
It certainly deserves Canada’s protection.