Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frame This: Buying Rights or Denying Rights

Yes, readers of the Spew may be tired of posts about language politics in Quebec, but when a guy has got to spew, a guy has got to spew.  The latest: Pauline Marois, leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, spoke yesterday about what her party would do after it wins the next election: repeal the Liberal bill 103 that would provide some mechanism for immigrants and Francophones to have their kids be educated in English.

This is really some pretty clever framing of the issue.  The status quo allows folks to send their kids to unsubsidized private English schools (there are very few of these).  The new bill would let folks send their kids for three years to such schools and then they would be eligible for English public schools.  This is all happening because the Canadian Supreme Court ruled against the previous modification to the status quo ante--that kids would become eligible after one year of private school in English.  Marois and the PQ are arguing that the new "pathway" lets the rich buy rights that the rest of the population does not have.  Oooooh.  Rights buying!!!  Nicely framed as to make it look like the issue is of rich Anglophone immigrants buying their way into English education for their kids.

Of course, one could take a different approach, and say that the PQ is denying people the freedom to choose for themselves what is best for their kids.  This would mean that all are denied rights, not just the rich.  On occasion, Marois and other PQ folks have said exactly that and then retreated.  Oops.  So, Marois has to argue that the Canadian Supreme Court is an alien entity with no jurisdiction in Quebec, which is what she does:

Calling the Supreme Court "a tribunal exclusively controlled by another nation," Marois says the PQ would use the notwithstanding clause to extend the French language charter to include all private schools.

Tyranny of the majority indeed, as the PQ would come into office with only a plurality of votes (the electoral system would turn that into a majority of seats) and then pass a bill with 50% plus one of the vote in the National Assembly to say that the Charter of Canadian Rights and Freedoms does not apply to language education in Quebec.  Good times.

And I fear this is inevitable.  The Quebec Liberals have been fairly corrupt and inept and been around for quite a while.  So, the PQ is likely to win, especially if it can play nationalist AND class politics with the language issue (even though Anglophones and immigrants in Quebec make less money than Francophones).  Once in power, this promise to trash the existing system can be cashed in easily, unlike promises about referendum on independence.  So, the question for my family is of timing.  My daughter is in ninth grade, and they have only eleven grades here (don't ask).  So, an election will probably happen in 2011, hopefully in the fall.  This would mean that the PQ could pass a bill while my daughter is in 10th grade but perhaps 11th, and then kick in the following year.  So, we might just escape this situation if the timing is right.  If not, then we may be sending our daughter to school in Ontario or the US.

Why?  She has gotten enough French to do ok probably but it would most likely deflate her grades quite significantly just when they matter the most.  Plus, if my daughter goes to French public schools, it would be unlikely that her parents could communicate with her teachers.  The teachers might be able to speak English, but they can say what one cop told me when I got caught speeding and I asked if we could talk in English: "I don't have to."

PS  The article uses as evidence of the undermining of French in Quebec that 12% of the Francophone kids on the West Island speak English at home.  12% .  Well, that certainly justifies denying people rights that are supposed to be protected by the Charter on Rights and Freedoms. 

1 comment:

Francois Caron said...

Spew, spew, please spew!

Indifference is worst.