Narration: Rahul Majumdar
Adapted from text originally published: July 28, 2023
The federal Official Languages Act update and the associated acts and amendments included in Bill C-13 are so far-reaching and perverse, they demanded the fullest discussion possible. Something beyond what tepid and servile Canadian mainstream media outlets have presented to date.
In response, I delivered an independent four-part series, each with distinct themes:
Part 1: Top seven reasons for rejecting Bill C-13 outright, and acknowledgement of some voices of opposition prior to its June 20, 2023 Royal Assent.
Part 2: The Betrayal of English-speaking Quebec
Part 3: Justin Trudeau: Quebec Nationalism’s Most Effective Federal Asset?
Part 4: The Supreme Court of Canada’s Imminent Linguistic Politicization?
Now, it’s time to contemplate a better path forward, as difficult and uncomfortable as it may be. So, with what we have learned to date about C-13, I present my concluding thoughts. For now.
Back to Basics: An Apolitical Official Languages Act
The Justin Trudeau government – on its own initiative and as requested by the Government of Quebec - has distorted the essential purpose of the Official Languages Act. i.e., the ability to offer federal services to Canadian residents (citizens, landed immigrants, temporary workers, refugees, etc.) in either French or English throughout Canada.
The original Official Languages Act, passed in 1969, was well-intentioned in its desire to counter Quebec separatism by making French-Canadians both inside and outside Quebec feel more at ease in their dealings with the federal government. It also encouraged more French-Canadians to join the federal civil service.
However, over the past five decades, the law has developed a life of its own and been used to justify an increasingly intrusive language bureaucracy with public funding privileges (via Canadian Heritage and other federal departments) to groups that deliberately or otherwise don’t have official language equality or Canadian unity at heart.
Now well into its fifth year, the unholy Justin Trudeau-François Legault alliance continues to undercut English rights in Quebec, and by extension the overall security of a 260-year-old community that has been at the heart of Canada’s political, cultural, and socioeconomic growth prior to and since Confederation.
Consider how federal C-13 and its Quebec counterpart, the odious Bill 96, An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Québec, concurrently legitimize:
The acceptance of an officially unilingual French Quebec nation within Canada;
The diminishment of the English language and the English-speaking community of Quebec in the province’s public square and civil administration;
Preferential status for minority francophone rights over minority anglophone rights in business, the workplace, immigration, and normal day-to-day life
Given persistent and toxic anti-English Quebec sentiment in today’s Canadian nation-state, the only way for the country to reclaim legitimacy is to demonstrate equal respect for both official language minorities, and formally incorporate indigenous languages into the Official Languages Act in a meaningful fashion. These goals necessitate a stripped-down, revised Official Languages Act that focusses on language fundamentals - not the perpetuation of political boondoggles. In short:
A commitment to guaranteeing federal services from coast-to-coast-to-coast in both English and French, in person as well as remotely via all relevant technologies;
An end to all federal funding for self-styled English and French language lobbyists, community groups, and associations. Neither language is in jeopardy of disappearing in Canada, and the C-13 fiasco clearly demonstrated the ineptitude and deceit of these so-called linguistic “leaders”. At the top of the list: l’Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO), la Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) and the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN);
Limiting the Official Languages Act’s sphere of influence to the basics, i.e., food (e.g., labelling), health and safety, environmental concerns; the federal civil service and Crown corporations; private enterprises under federal jurisdiction;
Massive funding targeted at the renewal, promotion and preservation of Canada’s indigenous languages
Is it Time to Contemplate a Post-Canada Quebec?
With all five parties currently represented in the House of Commons (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Bloc Québecois, Greens) fully committed to an officially unilingual French Quebec and the prioritization, i.e., promotion and protection, of French-speaking minorities in the Rest of Canada, what political options remain for the beleaguered English-Speaking Community of Quebec?
Ideas like a Province of Montreal within Canada, official bilingual status for the Island of Montreal, and city-state status for Montreal with language and economic exemptions from the Charter of the French Language occasionally pop up on social media. However, no serious grassroots movements have emerged to push for any of these options.
Checkmated at both the federal and provincial levels, has the time come for the English-Speaking Community of Quebec to consider radical, “outside the box” thinking?
Former political activist Tony Kondaks, in his 2012 book, Why Canada Must End: Human Rights in exchange for an Independent Quebec, opined that Quebec’s non-francophone voters - now upwards of 22% of the electorate - should seriously consider embracing Quebec independence, in exchange for a semi-autonomous “Quebec West” province (Montreal, Laval, Outaouais, parts of Montérégie, and the Southwest region) within the new country that would include iron-clad guarantees for fundamental human rights, including minority education and language rights that override the Charter Of The French Language.
Over a decade later, is it conceivable to consider such a Faustian bargain with either the Parti Québecois (PQ), Québec Solidaire (QS), or an emerging Quebec separatist party? Even François Legault’s Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) can’t be ruled out of this scenario – many Quebecers suspect that Premier Legault remains a separatist at heart, but prefers to extract maximum powers and concessions from the Government of Canada before acting politically on his true beliefs in a future referendum.
What do English-speaking Quebecers Have to Lose?
Understandably, it will be difficult for most Quebec anglophones to forgo their strong emotional attachment to Canada. How dare someone present its break-up as a viable option for the English-Speaking Community of Quebec, right?
However, if your fundamental freedoms and liberties as a citizen can be guaranteed, and if you can count on a fair, impartial justice system, isn’t it better to peacefully live in an independent Quebec than languish under two burdensome governments in an increasingly cruel Canada?
Assuming that English-speaking Quebecers and other federalist-leaning people could never conceive of breaking up Canada, what other options remain? Accept the continued erosion of citizenship rights until they all disappear? Do what over 600,000 Quebecers have done in the past 45 years and move out?
Face it - the English-Speaking Community of Quebec has little to no influence in electoral politics. Provincially, it can determine and/or strongly influence the result in roughly 20 of Quebec’s 125 ridings. At the federal level, perhaps 10 (at best, 12) of 78 ridings. First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) elections are decided by the majority, and in Quebec, that means the francophone block - in particular, the non-Montreal ROQ (Rest of Quebec).
Conversely, in referendum politics, every vote counts equally, meaning that anglophones have the power to determine the final result, as demonstrated in both the 1980 and 1995 Quebec plebiscites. So, if the English-Speaking Community of Quebec could ever organize itself and coalesce around a set of demands centred on freedom, liberty, and justice, why not make the best deal possible with a willing partner?
Stop Whining, Anglos! Take another French Course and Shut the FΩÇʞ Up
For proof of the Liberal Party of Canada’s condescension, arrogance and disregard of English-Speaking Community of Quebec concerns surrounding C-13, look no further than the federal byelection campaign in the Montreal riding of Notre Dame de Grâce-Westmount, said to have the largest mother-tongue English population in Quebec, in Spring 2023.
Anna Gainey, the Liberal Party of Canada candidate and eventual winner on June 19, 2023, refused to grant media requests during the byelection campaign, refused to participate in all-candidate debates, and hid behind endorsements from Anthony Housefather and Marc Garneau on the hustings – before finally declaring support for C-13 in the final week and asking the English-Speaking Community of Quebec to simply move on.
Nevertheless, Gainey herself ended up with 50.9% of the vote, and over 96% voted for pro-C-13 parties, although more than 70% of eligible voters chose to stay home.
The Liberal government also waited until the day after the byelection to get Royal Assent for C-13.
The recent Liberal government cabinet shuffle demonstrates the extent to which Justin Trudeau takes his eight Western Montreal ridings – the heart of the English-Speaking Community of Quebec – for granted. No MPs were promoted to cabinet, and only one anglophone Montrealer – the Honourable Marc Miller (long-time Trudeau loyalist) – remains in the Canadian Ministry. Conversely, two East End Montreal MPs representing overwhelmingly francophone ridings (the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, the Honourable Soraya Marisel Martínez Ferrada) are now both in cabinet.
All seemingly part of the Liberal Party of Canada’s general election calculus for courting French Quebec votes – no francophone Quebecers lost their places in cabinet – even if it means a continued lack of respect towards its most loyal voter base.
Ottawa’s political establishment and Quebec’s nationalist elite have together betrayed and shattered Confederation’s fundamental promise, i.e., the creation of a majority French-speaking Canadian province – the Province of Quebec – in exchange for solemn guarantees on minority linguistic and religious rights for the newly established English Quebec minority.
Feckless politicians, academics, lobby groups and media pundits who stabbed the English-Speaking Community of Quebec in the back will rue the day C-13 received Royal Assent. They have set into motion the dismantling of official bilingualism in Canada, and the provincialization of language policy in Canada’s other provinces and territories - with negative implications for French-Canadian minority populations.
The official language minority that C-13 was allegedly designed to “save”, even as it cast Canada’s other official language minority adrift…