If you know me, you’d know that there is nothing more important for me than to protect the linguistic minorities of Canada. Whether they are Franco-Ontarians, Acadians or Anglo-Quebecers, no one from coast to coast should be punished for speaking one of the official languages of our country. That is why I am opposed to Bill 96 or any other forms of legislation that pretends to protect the French language in Quebec.
Let’s get the facts straight. I am not opposed to Bill 96 for wanting to take action to protect and promote the usage of French. As a Francophone who goes to an English CEGEP, there is nothing more important than my French-Canadian heritage. I welcome measures that will strengthen our abilities to be fluent in French, and I am sure that is the same opinion shared by all of us. However, how this government is imposing on us makes Bill 96 such a flawed bill. It is so divisive and detrimental that I don’t even know where to begin with the problems of Bill 96.
Let’s start with the elephant of the room that concerns us all: limiting access to English CEGEPs for Francophone students. At first, I must admit that I was intrigued to see how this measure would work out. I thought maybe giving students from English high schools priority over students from French high schools, it would be a good compromise, but who am I kidding? If considering the future college population growth, we’re effectively making English CEGEPs an elite institution for Francophones! Don’t get me started on why I think elitism is horrible for Francophones in Quebec. Anybody who listened to at least one minute in high school history classes will recall that the Francophone majority in Quebec was historically oppressed by the elite English-speaking class. Can you now see the irony in this Bill?
We all know that Bill 96 could’ve been much worse if the government had decided to extend Bill 101 to the entire CEGEP system. Luckily for us, this ain’t the case – yet. Unluckily for us, the damages’ have already been done for Francophones in English CEGEPs (me included). We are being treated as second-class citizens for choosing which CEGEPs we all want to go to. Let’s talk about choice. If you are old enough to drive and live on your own by the time you arrive at CEGEP, you ought to be old enough to choose what you want to do with your future. The government has no right to say which CEGEPs you should belong to once you finish high school! We cannot pretend that “the protection of the French language” is more important than students’ freedom over their academic future.
Finally, let’s address the protection of the French language, the main motive of Bill 96. We live in the sole French-speaking province of this country. Of course, French is important to all of us. I refuse to believe that amazing fearmongering lies that Francophones who go to English CEGEPs are there to assimilate themselves. Well, listen, even if we’re finished with CEGEP, we are still going to stay Francophones. If we speak English, we shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens. We’re still proud Quebecers, and if there is one thing I love about my province is having the freedom of becoming who we really want to be. In a way, the assimilation logic given by the so-called Quebec nationalists makes no sense. I can’t even see if there are any studies that demonstrate extending Bill 101 to English CEGEPs would even work. If making Bill 101 for high school doesn’t work, why would it work for CEGEPs? And then, what next? Are we going to extend Bill 101 to Concordia, McGill and Bishop?
The actual problem with Bill 96 is that, even if it has good intentions, it is poorly executed, and it tackles the wrong “issues.” Researchers have said time and time again that if our kids are not able to properly learn French at a primary and secondary level in the sole French-speaking Canadian province, there must be something wrong with our education system. We shouldn’t be blamed for the failures of our education system, and our educational rights and freedoms shouldn’t be impeded. Bill 96 completely misses the mark on that point, and that is why, as a proud Francophone, I. Am. Opposed. To. It.
The divisions caused by this Bill have already been done. French is the natural resource that all Quebecers treasure. It makes us strong and powerful across the world. My biggest fear is that those divisions will negatively impact our Francophone brothers/sisters-in-arms across Canada.