The Gleaner

Less stick, more carrot

The Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) loses one by-election to the PQ, and it suddenly becomes scared of its own shadow. The response: bring out the linguistic stick and start banging away again at everything English to bolster its nationalist credentials.

The latest in a long string of impediments that are being imposed on English-language institutions is to almost double tuition fees for all out-of-province students (except from France and Belgium). This follows the enrolment mayhem foisted on English-language CEGEPs by Bill 96, and the attempt to close down English-language school boards through Bill 40 despite a court ruling to the contrary.

The rationale for the latest attack on English-language institutions is because French is apparently threatened in Montreal by some 30,000 unilingual English-speaking students from out of province who attend McGill and Concordia universities, and this needs to be reined in by charging higher tuition. As bad as the impact will be on those two institutions, it will be even worse on Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, given that one-third of its student population is from out of province.

This is a heavy-handed action that will do little to protect and promote the French language yet do a lot to undermine English language institutions – particularly in the regions where English is absolutely no threat to the French language in any way. What we need instead is to incentivize the use of French rather than penalize those who speak “another language.”

A good example is the now defunct 6+ program that was offered by the New Frontiers School Board some years ago. Students spent an extra year entirely in French after grade 6, to improve their French second-language capacity before heading off to high school. It was a great program that the ministry of education shut down because it was “hors norms.”

The English-speaking community of Quebec has been asking for years for more programs to help its members improve their French, and all we get in response is more restrictions, more penalties, and more mayhem. To paraphrase former premier Lucien Bouchard, next we’ll be paying extra to have a blood test in English.

When it comes to promoting the use of French in Quebec while respecting the English-speaking minority, the time has come for more carrot and less stick.
Hugh Maynard

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