Monday, February 11, 2008

An Essay on the Anglophone Community in Montreal

Welcome, friends.

Time is against us. The recent Liberal caucus recommended tightening of the French language charter. The PQ government, which is now threatening to derail the Liberal minority government here in Quebec, has stated they would force non-Francophones to send their children to French-only daycares. The Separatist and anti-Anglo lobbies (Including the vile and racist Jeunes Patriotes du Quebec) want to curtail the use of English within the walls of English-language institutions, like our hospitals.

What we are seeing is the beginning of an all out assault against our language, our heritage and our rights. If the Liberal government survives the threat of looming elections, it will only do so by appeasing French nationalist and so-called soft-Separatist voters by making the French language charter even more strict.

If the PQ gets into power, excluding the inevitable, divisive and unwarranted referendum on the separation of Quebec from Canada (The PQ's raison d'etre, as it were), they will undoubtedly restrict English-language access.

Basically, no matter who wins, unless we stand up to be counted, we're screwed.

How will they do that?

There's three fronts they can attack us on: the schools, the workplace and the hospitals.

First, the schools: There are already very strict conditions in place, deciding who can and cannot send their children to English-language primary or secondary public schools. Private schools and higher education (CEGEP and University) are different matters.

If either the Liberals or the PQ decide to curtail access to English language education, it could mean further restrictions against English in private primary or secondary schools, and restrictions against your right to be educated in CEGEP or University in French.

There are already minimum French course requirements for English CEGEP students, and they already make it very hard for many of us to complete CEGEP, let alone get into University. This forces many English speaking people to leave the province for higher education. Oftentimes, the students that leave the province don't return.

This is nothing short of ethnic cleansing by attrition.

Second, restriction of English in the hospitals. In Quebec, workplaces with more than a certain number of employees must automatically by law be French-only work environments. The only reason we have English speaking hospitals is that a mere 25 years ago, Montreal hospitals affiliated with McGill University successfully lobbied for the right to hire non-French speaking staff—with the unreasonable caveat that the hospital made French services available.

Recently the Societe Saint Jean Baptiste, a Francocentric separatist organization (who ironically also gave Canada its national anthem in 1880) set its sites on English language hospitals, when one of its lobbyists chose to go to an English hospital for treatment, where he was “humiliated” when a doctor merely asked if he spoke English. The activist didn’t make any concerted attempt to request French service, but feels outraged and humiliated that he was treated in English.

It is obvious to anyone that the elimination of English hospitals is the goal, here. Since 1991, a record number of English-language hospitals, clinics and health-care service providers have been shut down in Quebec. Last year, the McGill University Health Centre - which oversees five hospitals, including the Montreal General - recorded six complaints of a lack of service in French out of one million patient visits. That's 0.0006 per cent. Is there any doubt that this attack against English hospitals is aimed not at protecting French but in driving out English?

Lastly, they can attack us in our workplaces. How? Currently, small businesses are not required to be French-only. That can change with the flick of a pen. Likewise, many of us have had the experience of a French boss reprimanding English employees for speaking amongst themselves in English. Starbucks at Parc and Laurier comes to mind, personally, from the time I worked there under one Melanie Parisien.

Consider that in the Anglophone community here in Montreal, unemployment rates are 24 per cent higher than in the Francophone community. How many of you have been told your French wasn’t good enough to get hired? How many of you have been told, as I was, that it was your family name or accent while speaking French that kept you from getting a job?

The Francophone majority in Quebec continues to claim to be threatened, when all evidence points to exactly the opposite: the Anglophone community is in decline, has a higher jobless rate, less access to services in their own language, have a lower proportion of income, must have government permission to send their children to English schools and is denied proportionate representation in government.

My question is this: what are we going to do about it? Our so-called leaders in Alliance Quebec lack the will to effectively lobby the government or to organize the people. We live in an era that proudly proclaims human rights being accorded to members of visible minorities and the Gay, Lesbian and Trans-gendered communities. We live in an era that screams in outrage over religious persecution, ghettoization and intolerance. Why, then are our basic human rights being denied? Why then is there no outrage over what has happened and what continues to happen to what was once a thriving community, a distinct society with an historical and cultural heritage that was known by more than just historians at McGill University.

We need to recruit more people to our cause, we need to start organizing and we need, ultimately, to take our demands to Quebec City and claim our birthright, our rights not only as Canadian citizens but as citizens of the Province of Quebec!

Are we not taxpayers? Are we not eligible to vote? Are we not citizens of this city, this province, this country? Then why do we continue to allow them to trample our most basic and fundamental right TO PRESERVE OUR CULTURE?


It is time for all of us to work for the good of our community, our language, our heritage!

Do something!


Anonymous said...

I don't know about you, but as an Anglo Montrealer whose put up with nearly 40 years of the PQ's crap, I consider myself more of a Montrealer and a Canadian than I do a Quebecker. With the growing ethnic population, Anglo angst and the rift caused by French elitists, maybe we should consider partition instead. Montreal - la belle province