Why are Quebec politicians so bad at promoting French?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Un peu bizarre, non?

I've never paid that much attention to Quebec politics so perhaps I'm the last person in the world to be surprised by this (one other post I wrote on a waste of money on an ineffective campaign is here), but Quebec politicians seem to be really bad at promoting French. Here's the gist of it:

All new immigrants arriving in Quebec should be obliged to learn French and not only after having lived here 20 years, Louise Beaudoin, the Parti Québécois candidate in Rosemont, said last night.


Beaudoin, who was minister for international affairs and responsible for the Charter of the French Language in the old PQ government, but lost her seat in the 2003 election, is trying to make a comeback in Rosemont - a safe PQ riding.

Beaudoin's comments reflect the existing PQ proposed policies should the party take power. After Marois arrived as leader, the party said it would propose a law that would state all new arrivals - Quebec receives about 45,000 immigrants a year - sign a contract between themselves and "Quebec society" in which they commit to learning French in three years.

Those who do not master the language by the end of the contract would not be allowed to have the new Quebec citizenship - should Quebec become a country - and could not run for public office.

So what's the problem here? Quebec is French-speaking, so immigrants to Quebec should learn to speak French. No problem there. The problem is the way to go about it. Consider an immigrant considering a move to Canada. There is English-speaking Canada, and French-speaking Canada. The language of the former is much more influential than the latter, so the latter needs a few more incentives to get people to move there and learn it. What are some examples of incentives?

  • Reduced tuition for immigrants learning the language (cheaper than learning English in other parts of the country),
  • A program for French like Deutsche Welle's Deutch - warum nicht? that goes over Quebec French in detail, is completely free, and available in a ton of languages.
  • Some other economic benefits, like perhaps a tax credit or refund. The details of this would depend on the province's economic situation, but the overall concept would be that those that have just arrived in the province and are working somewhere will be able to get a small tax credit or refund for a number of years if they show documentation proving that they are learning the language. This would only take effect for about up to three years, because it would be assumed that by then they would know the language quite well.
There are certainly a lot of other ways to promote the language, but the overall impression immigrants should be given is that:

1) If they go to English-speaking Canada they get to learn English but they are on their own and will have to work hard at it, but
2) If they go to Quebec, they will be learning a less influential language but at the same time the government itself is interested in them becoming fluent and life is made that much easier for immigrants living there than in the rest of the country.


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