Quebec’s Bill 14 is an update to the province’s language laws, Bill 101. The governing Parti Quebecois is receiving a bit of heat for one proposed change: they would remove the exemption for children of francophone members of the Armed Services that currently allows them to attend English-language schools.
A petition has been struck, which reads:
WHEREAS Bill 14 – An Act to amend the Charter of the French language, the Charter of human rights and freedoms and other legislative provisions was introduced on December 5 th, 2012;
WHEREAS sections 79, 80, 81, 88 and 89 aim to disallow temporary certificates of eligibility issued to children of Francophone members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Québec, the government would respect the temporary certificates already issued, but with no possibility of renewal;
WHEREAS the military represent with dignity and courage, at the peril of their lives, Québec and all the other Canadian provinces and territories during Canadian and international missions;
WHEREAS due to the mobility inherent to military life, members of the Armed Forces are subject to be transferred anywhere in Canada or out of country; many of them request this temporary exemption so that their children may be versed in both of Canada’s official languages;
WHEREAS sections 79, 80, 81, 88 and 89 would lead to additional and unnecessary levels of stress, uncertainty and insecurity for military families, and more particularly for their children;
WHEREAS this exemption, in no way bears prejudice to the French language in Québec;
WHEREAS the said exemption was granted over 30 years ago by the Parti Québécois, led by the late Mr. René Lévesque;
We, citizens of Québec, request that sections 79, 80, 81, 88 and 89 of the proposed Bill 14 be removed from Bill 14.
It may seem like a reasonable request, but it is really a matter of injustice doubling down on injustice.
A little background may be needed. Bill 101 was passed decades ago and is the source of Quebec’s language laws. One part of the law dictates what language of instruction children in Quebec may receive. If you are who attended a Canadian English-language school, your children may attend an English-language school. If you did not attend a Canadian English-language school, your children must attend a francophone school in Quebec. If you were not raised in Canada, your children must attend a francophone school, regardless of the language you and your children speak or the language you were schooled in.
It is one of the most xenophobic laws in Canada, yet it still receives much support within Quebec.
There has been an exemption, however. A francophone member of the Canadian Forces can choose to send their child to an English school. The reasoning being that soldiers are regularly moved to various areas of the country, and it would be unfair for the children to be shuffled between French-language and English-language schools.
Undoubtedly, this is true. However, what this stance ignores is the inherent injustice of forcing the children of non-military families into francophone schools, regardless of their mother tongue or the preferences of their parents. It ignores the fact that non-military families are regularly forced to move for the sake of work, or that forcing English-speaking immigrants into francophone schools can create an equal amount of stress and injustice.
(Of course, the province regularly creates laws to discourage immigration, so perhaps that last part is a feature not a bug.)
The result of the exemption is a new caste system that places military families above all other Canadians, especially immigrants. It declares that injustice is acceptable as long as special privilege goes to those who choose a career in the military. Few healthy democracies elevate their military to a higher class of citizen. There may be a bit of fawning and hero-worship, but such sycophantic pandering is rarely codified.
The intent behind the petition may be pure – to alleviate the suffering and oppression of Canadian citizens by the Quebec government – but the execution is insulting.