The Métropolitain

"One language, one culture?" M. Fournier, an explanation is owed.

Par Beryl Wajsman le 30 octobre 2014

"The Quebec of the future is already visible. A nation within a federation. With one language, one culture, civil law, and distinct social values."

With those words, the Couillard government's Minister for Intergovernmental affairs and the MNA for St.Laurent - one of Quebec's most multilingual and multicultural ridings. - Jean-Marc Fournier reopened a debate we all thought was closed with the election of a Liberal government. "One language, one culture." Really? M. Fournier, you owe voters an explanation.

Fournier made these comments while discussing Quebec's place in the Constitution at the opening of a conference on the 1864 Quebec Conference which led to Confederation. And he went further saying "Distinct society is now more broadly recognized and accepted by political actors and by the courts.” While that may be true, the implications of Fournier's words are a quantum leap forward. And judging by the intensity of calls and correspondence we have received in the past week, may propel us into yet another endless round of needless culture wars. We need clarity in a hurry.

And we need clarity in a hurry on another broad stroke Fournier painted. Quebec, he said, "Is a pluralistic society that long ago opted for an interculturalist approach. This choice of interculturalism is also part of Quebec’s specificity.” Interculcuralism, in Quebec political terms,  means the integration of minorities into the majority French-language culture.

Several matters need to be addressed by this government:

First, if the Constituion is going to be raised again, why perpetuate the myth - as Fournier's words did - that the 1982 Constitution Act, which was nothing but a formula for revising the Constitution here at home coupled with a Charter of rights, was the Constitution itself and was imposed on Quebec and that Quebec is somehow not part of Canada's Constitution? This nation's Constitution is still the BNA Act which Quebec signed with all of its minority rights guarantees and split legal jurisdictions.

Second, even if one is an interculturalist and not a multiculturalist - and reasonable people can disagree on the benefits of both - interculturalism implies an acceptance of pluralist unversal western values, not the parochial particularities of any group based on creed, color, faith or language.

Third, if this government is now seeking a one language policy as an integral part of this "distinct society," how does it plan to square that with minority language guarantees in Canada's Constitution and indeed of the anti-discrimination provision on language in the Quebec Charter?

Fourth, is one culture now to be defined as French ethnicity as opposed to a civil society based on the universal rights of man which Quebec has repeatedly committed to most recently in the October 2012 Quebec Conference Declaration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union against discrimination based on creed, color, faith or language?

Fifth, are we to expect more litmus tests of linguistic and cultural purity in education and healthcare?

Sixth, if this is a society of "civil law" what of the split legal jurisdictions protected by Canada's Constitution? What are we to make of this society's plans for constitutional, criminal and family law so greatly governed by Common Law? And what plans does a "civil law" with a "one language" policy have for English linguistic protection in our courts?

Seventh,why these remarks at this time when the Couillard government has been making positive comments of the need for special status for Montreal to be free of the shackles of some of the stifling rule and regulation of the "distinct society?"

Finally, in opening the door to more needless and baseless rancor, does this government not realize it is compromising any potential economic recovery after the devasting administration of Mme. Marois? 

Quebecers, and indeed all Canadians, have a right to some answers. And the answers had better come quickly before this unhealed wound begins to fester yet again.