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The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
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is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 11.14.07
Montreal

GREG DUNCAN

Press #1 in Quebec for intolerance and unreasonable accommodation

I, (name of citizen), swear that I will be loyal to the people of Québec, that I will faithfully observe the laws of Québec and that I will faithfully fulfill my duties as a citizen in compliance with the Québec Constitution.

'For those who don't know, and trust me as an Anglo Quebecer I do know, it's been rough on the English and Ethnics lately and winter has not yet begun.

The hunting season is in full swing with Quebec Anglophone and Allophones being the prey of choice.

We continue to be targeted by francophone language zealots at the highest levels. If Parti Québécois chief Pauline Marois gets her way with proposed identity bill 195, there will be a requirement that future arrivals in Quebec pass French and citizenship tests, and swear a loyalty of oath before being allowed to run for provincial, municipal, or school-board office, or petition the National Assembly on any grievance.

Like many others, I worry that the bill will descend on non-francophones currently residing here. This bill would apply even to Canadian citizens arriving from the rest of the country.

The inclusion of the term "foreign nationals" in the bill is outright disturbing if not racist in tone. Bill 195 lays the terms and conditions for being awarded a Quebec citizenship card and additionally outlines conditions for businesses who wish to operate in Quebec through the awarding of an a francization certificate.

The proposition has been lambasted by analysts and experts and called xenophobic, divisive, unconstitutional, unacceptable, botched, retrogressive and shameful, among other things. Can't say I disagree.

The bill would violate Article 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which gives all citizens the right to run for federal and provincial elections, said several law professors quoted in reports published in Montreal newspaper La Presse.

The bill 195 propositions may be viewed at: http://www.assnat.qc.ca/eng/38legislature1/Projets-loi/Publics/07-a195.htm

This week's Anglo baiting has two groups of language activists protesting the existence of an English language option on Quebec Government phone lines. They are protesting the fact that callers to many Quebec government offices are told to press nine for English before instructions are delivered in French.

Ironically, those who press nine for English move on to be served entirely in French anyway in my own experience.

Mouvement Montreal francais and Imperatif francais launched their campaign on Friday, when 50 of their members bombarded government phone lines while reading excerpts from Bill 101, the province's French Language Charter. In another twist of irony, they have given the operation an English moniker -- "Press nine." The two groups recently attracted attention for criticizing the Second Cup coffee shop chain for dropping French from their signs in Quebec.

Meanwhile, Quebec Premier Jean Charest outlined in an open letter to Quebec's largest English daily, The Gazette, how his government has contributed to the debate about Quebec identity and immigrants by setting up a provincial commission that is traveling Quebec to hear from ordinary people about their thoughts on cultural accommodation.

The Bouchard-Taylor commission hearings have so far demonstrated a disgustingly intolerant picture of some Quebecers who believe immigrants and different cultural and religious beliefs are threatening their way of life. In his open letter, Charest wrote he is worried that the tone of the debate over "reasonable accommodation" is hurting Quebec's reputation as a tolerant society. Again, I have to agree.

According to The Suburban newspaper, there should be no cause for surprise that over 40,000 people have moved from Quebec since mid-2006. These are the highest numbers since the last sovereignty referendum in 1995. The latest numbers come from Statistics Canada.

There also should be no surprise at the emergence of an Office Québécois de la Langue Anglaise recently. You've heard of the French language police? Now there are the English language police.

A new group has started up, billing itself as a non-profit group concerned about the slow disappearance of the English language in Quebec. It promises to monitor businesses and lobby merchants to advertise in English and French as allowed by law. Good luck, I say. Quebec's shameful status as having the highest taxes in North America and its equally shameful recent displays of intolerance make this Quebec citizen (do I qualify?) question continuing any contributions to what I previously thought was a tolerant and free society.

As a fully bilingual Anglo who actually loves the French language, I am not alone in thinking more and more about economic opportunity and freedom of language use in "foreign" lands, Canada included. Most "foreign" nations consider multi-linguism to be a benefit while here French nationalists can't tolerate the use of a mere two languages.

Sadly, the cleansing continues.

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