A lesson in Quebec math: Bill 14 could put an end to many of Quebec’s bilingual cities
Published Friday, December 7, 2012 10:48PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 7, 2012 11:13PM EST
MONTREAL—When the Parti Quebecois introduced Bill 14 earlier this week, the government told Anglophone communities not to fear its plan to strengthen Bill 101.
However, the new law would see bilingual cities lose their status if the English population dips below half.
Most of Quebec’s bilingual municipalities are at or around the 50 per cent mark. According to the mayors of those cities, the problem is how Anglophones are counted.
On the surface, Cote-St-Luc would seems to be an Anglo bastion—75 per cent of residents identify themselves as English speakers, with just 18 per cent saying that they speak French at home. But according to the last census, Cote-St-Luc could face a problem keeping its bilingual status.
“We have about 32 per cent of residents who list neither English nor French as their mother tongue,” said Cote-St-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather.
In the last census, if you listed Yiddish as your first language, even if you rarely speak it at home, the PQ government classifies you as a non-English speaker. By that logic, only about 50 per cent of people who live in the Montreal area-city are Anglophones.
“To me, an English-speaking community is everyone who wants to live in English, whereas to Madame Marois, she believes an English community is one where someone's grandparents are born in the U.K.,” said Housefather.
If Bill 14 passes, and Cote-St-Luc's English population falls below 50 per cent, the city could lose its bilingual status: no more bilingual signs or bilingual city documents. The situation infuriates Housefather.
“There would be a huge impact on our citizens, they would no longer feel as at home in their city,” said Housefather.
When launching the update to Bill 101 on Wednesday, the PQ insisted it wasn't being anti-English.
“We must be clear: the Anglophone minority in Quebec is at home here,” said PQ Language Minsiter Diane de Courcy as she unveiled Bill 14.
Other parts of the world seem to have a much warmer approach to making minorities feel at home. In Finland, when five per cent of a municipality comes from the Swedish minority, bilingualism is required. Worldwide, Swedish speakers outnumber Finnish speakers.
“Quebec is the only place in the world where cities are barred from serving minorities in a language of their choice unless the minority is the majority. It is absurd,” said Housefather.
Housefather is now in the process of reaching out to the mayors of other bilingual cities to form a common front to save their bilingual status His real hope, though, is that the Liberals and the Coalition Avenir Quebec simply vote down Bill 14.