The Meaghan Moran Affair: Reaping a poisonous whirlwind

Par Beryl Wajsman le 28 juin 2013

So young Meaghan Moran, a 17-year-old part-time employee at a South Shore IGA supermarket, has become the latest victim in the ongoing babel about protecting French language and culture in Quebec. And yes we meant to spell babel just that way. Read on. Because this time it's different.

Meaghan.jpgIt's different because Meaghan is a victim not of some snooping inspector or some "denonciation anonyme," but of a store supervisor who told her that Quebec law did not allow her to speak anything but French even in the employees' room of the workplace, and that in any case if anything other than French was allowed "ghettos" would be created among the employees. Rubbish of course. No part of Quebec’s language laws mandates that only French be spoken in the course of a work day. And Meaghan was smart enough to get this supervisor on tape. The supervisor, who worked in the human resources section, was suspended by the store's owner Louise Menard - a well-respected businesswoman in her area - who added that there are no restrictions on languages in her store.

The whole language debate has become characterized by a cacophony of rule and regulation, invective and incitement, that nobody can keep straight anymore. It has become nothing less than a Tower of Babel. It pits neighbour against neighbour producing nothing but polluted minds. Particularly since the turbocharged Bill 14 was introduced.

Jean-Francois Lisee, Quebec's minister responsible for Montreal, declared that as much as his government wants to assure French as the common language of the workplace, it must be done with "common sense" and not by policing lunch rooms. Common sense. There's the rub. It's in damned short supply!

How often have we written in this space that the words and deeds of public officials can create conditions that inevitably lead to acts of prejudice. Most people are not going to parse each section of each new law. People react to what the philosopher Eric Hoffer called "the temper of the times" created by the civility, or lack thereof, of the public discourse. And Quebec's state-sanctioned discourse inherently, if not intentionally, produces a public mindset - a zeitgeist - of exclusiveness and intolerance. It's time to reign in not only the letter of these laws, but the mean-spiritedness of them as well. This government, in its regulations and rhetoric, is fanning the flames of discord. And the senior members of it are smart enough to know it. 

How many more incidents will this administration tolerate. Pastagate, Pastrygate, Turbangate, Spoongate. Teenagers attacked in the streets for speaking English . Ticket-takers in our transit system refusing service to those who can't speak French. The Pierre Dubucs of our society - he the editor of Alt Journal - who recently and infamously declared ,"If someone can't ask for a Metro ticket in French, let them walk!" And we could go on.

It is no longer acceptable to write off each incident as "isolated." It is time to have a hard look at Quebec today. Politically correct acceptance of phrases like "the normal aspirations of Francophones to protect their language, " don't cut it anymore. There is nothing "normal" about discriminatory laws and second-class citizenship. There is nothing normal about what is going on here. We have allowed too many seeds of hate to be sown. And we are all reaping the poisonous whirlwind.


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Beryl P. Wajsman

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