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Language Politics in Canada Douglas Brown St Francis Xavier University February 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Language Politics in Canada Douglas Brown St Francis Xavier University February 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Language Politics in Canada Douglas Brown St Francis Xavier University February 2011

2 Language Politics in Canada: Outline Canada pre and post 1960 Demographics of Language Inequality Dealing with Linguistic Insecurity Language as Driver of Nationalism and of Constitutional Turmoil Current Demographics and Tensions

3 Key Dates….pre 1960 1763 France cedes North American territories to Britain 1774 Quebec Act guarantees French language and RC religion 1840 United Province of Canada – power- sharing between French and English 1867 Confederation – Quebec as home to French majority (minority French populations outside Quebec)

4 Keeping the Lid On: 1867-1960  Federal union is manageable  Elite accommodation works  Social and institutional segregation of French and English  Conservative, anti-statist French Canadian society  Church is key institution in French Canada  Demographic balance maintained (French share of population is nearly constant at 30 percent )

5 Boiling Over: The Quiet Revolution in Quebec Rejection of old values and identity (rural, Catholic, ethnic purity) “Post-colonial” ideology plays a role Rise of new Francophone middle class Significant worry over future of French language Slow transformation to civic nationalism The special role of the Quebec state

6 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism Report, 1965 Average annual incomes, 1961 census:  British origin $ 5918 English only 6049 Bilingual (44%) 5929  French origin 3880 French only 3107 Bilingual (52%) 4523

7 The Transformation to a Civic Nationalism in Quebec Declining emphasis on “Québécois de souche” (the original ethnic population) Language as key remaining focus of identity Embracing a multi-ethnic identity, but “in French” French-speaking integration as counterpart to English-speaking integration outside Quebec

8 Versions of the Nationalist Project in Quebec, 1960-1995 Special Status Deux-Nations (“equal to equal”) Sovereignty-association (partial independence?) Distinct society Secession from the federation (also decribed as “sovereignty” or independence)

9 Quebec legislation on language, 1972 onwards Objectives: 1) Linguistic security; 2) Economic and social equality “Bill 101”– Charter of the French Language -- first passed 1977, amended since French as the language of work, and an end to exploitation of francophones in Quebec Reinforcing the French “face” of Quebec Dealing with the immigrant challenge in schools

10 Federal legislation and policy Defacto special status:  More tax room for Quebec alone  Opting out of national programs  Bilateral deals on immigration, culture, etc. Reform of the federal public service Federal Official Languages Act, also New Brunswick “French power” in Ottawa Closer Ties to Francophone World “Quebecois nation” declaration in Parliament, 2006

11 The limits to accommodation Resistance and backlash to federal bilingualism outside Quebec Resistance to special status – finds expression in the rejection of Meech Lake Accord French-English tensions:  Concern for English rights in Quebec  Perceived federal favouritism to Quebec  Legal challenge to Quebec sign laws and other aspects of Bill 101  Battles for provincial or municipal services in French outside Quebec

12 Stéphan Dion argument, 1992 Linguistic insecurity explains a lot about Quebec nationalism and Quebec’s demands within the federation Episodes of rejection of French status causes upward spikes in support for sovereignty Key flash points:  Gens de l’air controversy, 1976  Supreme Court judgment on Bill 101, 1988  Rejection of Meech Lake Accord, 1990  ….Vancouver Olympics, 2010

13 Current State of Affairs Relative stability in federal-provincial relations Relative linguistic peace in Quebec and elsewhere Slow effect of immersion movement in English- speaking community Federalists in power in Quebec -- Liberals under Charest Bloc québécois still a force in Ottawa Parti québécois still a major party in Quebec

14 Current Demographics French-English income levels in Quebec now are basically the same French proportion of population in Quebec slowly rising (now 84%) Bilingualism and tri-lingualism in Quebec at high levels (Fr =36%, Eng =66%, other = 52%; other trilingual = 49%) French proportion of population in Canada as a whole is slowly declining (now 23%)

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