Quebec culture in Canada
By Natalie Serafini, Opinions Editor
Until recently, I didn’t realize how idealistic I was about Quebec culture in Canada. I felt the lack of bilingualism outside of Quebec was a sign that Canadians were lax in their commitment to bilingualism. In my Social Studies class, we talked about how Quebec culture and language are gradually being assimilated into non-existence. Visiting Quebec, I needn’t have worried about my French not being good enough for conversing: almost everyone spoke English.
Politicians are certainly aware that Quebec has become anglicized. The Parti Québécois (PQ) has voiced their intention to reinforce language laws with Bill 101. Bill 101 would compel businesses with 11 or more employees to use French in all staff communications (the current law applies to businesses with more than 50 workers), and would also close the bridging schools where students go to transition into English public schools. These proposals have been unwelcome amongst the anglophone community in Quebec.
The very simple problem with the PQ’s attempts at reinforcing these language laws is that you can’t mandate culture. You can’t force people to speak a certain language, or take part in festivals and traditions.
My idealism was apparent in what I supposed were solutions to the assimilation problem. I’d thought the answer to the fading Quebec culture was a promotion of that culture throughout Canada. Rather than viewing Quebec as this little pocket of French-speaking, poutine-eating, crêpe-making culture, I thought schools, communities, and Canadians needed to remember that Canada is bilingual.
Then my (very insightful) brother pointed out to me that doing so would lead to a homogenized version of Canadians. Canada is so broad and so diverse, it’s ridiculous to try to force all of Canada to act or speak a certain way. Each province has its own identity, although I’m not sure what BC is known for. Whatever we are, it’s important to preserve the disparity and differences amongst us Canadians.
I had thought that in order to preserve Quebec culture, it was necessary for the rest of Canada to embrace it. Yet, this is not a solution. The disappearance of Quebec culture would be another step towards the homogenization of Canada. It doesn’t make sense to assimilate the rest of Canada in an effort to avoid losing Quebec culture. I don’t want to see all of Canada looking, acting, and talking the same. Instead, each of the regions of Canada should embrace their distinct identity.
Ever since my brother pointed out the danger of homogenization, I’ve been conflicted about the possible solutions. Mandating culture is not a viable option. I’m not sure how it is that the PQ plans to enforce these laws, and it’s absurd to regulate such little matters as what language is spoken, where, and when.
Ignoring the problem isn’t an option either. It’s easy to dismiss the erosion of French-Canadian culture by saying that all cultures evolve. But I don’t see such an evolution. The metamorphosis from French to French-Canadian culture was a morph; the risk of French-Canadians becoming more English-Canadian is a risk of disappearance. I know that many First Nations cultures and languages have disappeared, or are nearing extinction. It’s tragic to think that with the loss of a culture comes the loss of a link to the past.
I have no clue what the solution is, but we need to come up with one that neither over-regulates nor over-simplifies. It’s more important for all of us to discover, love, and take pride in our identity.