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Quebec should become a bilingual province, suggests a federal MP

Photo: House of Commons “Because there you are going to exclude others who want to learn French,” pleaded Quebec liberal elected official Angelo Iacono.

Michel Saba – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

Published at 10:49 Updated at 1:11 p.m.

  • Canada

The Bloc and Conservatives say they are outraged by Laval Liberal MP Angelo Iacono's suggestion that Quebec would benefit from becoming an officially bilingual province rather than having only French as its official language .

“According to him, French reduces us,” Bloc Québécois MP Marilène Gill was indignant on Friday during question period.

Ms. Gill, who judges that such a comment is “revealing of a cultural problem in the Liberal Party” where linguistic missteps are multiplying, asked if this is a point of view shared by the Liberals and if they intend to call their MP to order.

The government leader in the House of Commons, Steven MacKinnon, did not respond directly, but he did reiterated that his party recognizes the decline of French and has a “dedication” to “our two official languages ​​in the country”.

While the Bloc returned to the charge, he went on the attack. “The Bloc, on the other hand, is there to do one thing: put (the) Quebec neighbors against (the) Quebec neighbors, create chicanery and make people divide. We're not here for that. We are for linguistic unity. »

Mr. Iacono made his remarks Thursday evening during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Official Languages ​​in Ottawa. “I believe that Quebec, and I believe that Canada, should be a bilingual country, to be stronger and not just be a unilingual French-speaking province, because there you will exclude others who want to learn French,” a- he said.

The MP, who represents the Alfred-Pellan constituency, is one of the Liberals who took turns in an apparent attempt at parliamentary obstruction to prevent holding a vote so that the committee requests the expulsion of their colleague Francis Drouin for his vulgar comments at the beginning of the month.

“I'm stunned”

But Justin Trudeau's team was not at the end of its troubles on Friday, while the Conservatives started part.

“I’m stunned,” said the MP for Mégantic – L’Érable, Luc Berthold. This is unacceptable ! And not a single Liberal member from Quebec in this caucus stood up to denounce his comments, not even the member for Papineau (the Prime Minister). »

It was the MP for Orléans, the Franco-Ontarian Marie-France Lalonde, who went to the front. “This will allow me to highlight the inaction of the Conservatives for nine years in relation to priorities in terms of modernizing official languages, in terms of the action plan,” she sent.

There is only one officially bilingual province in the country: New Brunswick. Quebec's only official language is French. Conversely, English is the only official language in the eight other provinces of the Canadian federation: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Island -of Prince Edward and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Although Canada has two official languages, the Constitution provides that the two levels of government — the federal government and the provinces — have the power to legislate on linguistic matters in the areas of jurisdiction assigned to them.

To support his argument, MP Iacono recounted having began his school career in English “because the French speakers, […] the Quebecois, the native French, did not want to have the Italians because they felt threatened”, although he “was due to go to a school French.”

At university, after his political science studies at McGill, he chose to continue his law studies at “the most French-speaking, the most Quebecois, we will say the most “French”” of universities: UQAM.

“And I fit in well,” Mr. Iacono said. And I was well respected. And look: I speak the French language today. There are sometimes words that I don't understand, there are sometimes words that I say with a bit of an Italian accent, but I am a product of Quebec, I was born in Quebec, and I learned French. »

In fact, Statistics Canada data reveal that the rate of bilingualism (English-French) is increasing in Quebec and decreasing outside this province, so much so that it stagnates throughout the country.

Quebec is by far the province where the proportion of the population capable of carrying on a conversation in French and English is the highest. It went from 40.8% in the 2001 census to 46.4% in the 2021 census.

At the same time, the latest census once again confirms the decline of French in Quebec across all its indicators.

From 2016 to 2021, Statistics Canada observed a drop in the proportion of Quebecers who had French as their mother tongue ( from 77.1% to 74.8%), as a language spoken predominantly at home (from 79.0% to 77.5%), as a first official language spoken (from 83.7% to 82.2% ) and those able to carry on a conversation in French (from 94.5% to 93.7%).

As for the language most often used in workplaces, French increased from 79.9% to 79.7%.

Both the Bloc and the Conservative Party pointed out that Mr. Iacono's comments are part of a series of cases where the Liberals have stepped into trouble when it comes to defending French in Quebec.

They notably recalled that the elected representative of Saint-Laurent, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, had denied the decline of French, when she also falsely indicated that law 96 prevents English speakers from being treated or when the Franco-Ontarian MP Francis Drouin called witnesses campaigning for the protection of the language “full of crap”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116