NEWS

Emotions run high at panel on future of English in Quebec

03/21/2013 11:49 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT
Emotions ran high Thursday night at NDG’s Crowley Centre as francophones and anglophones alike spoke on the future of English in Quebec.

Notable locals Jean-François Lisée, Anne-France Goldwater, Terry Mosher, Tamy Emma Pepin, John Stokes and Kevin Tierney spoke about the core language issues in the province, namely diversity, politics and identity.

Though diverging statements and opinions were expressed over the course of the near two-hour-long event, one salient point was made time and time again: the future of English in Quebec really depends on who you ask.

A generational gap deepened the debate when Pepin, an online news personality and Huffington Post Quebec blog editor, said she didn’t really fear for the future of English in the province.

Pepin, a francophone raised in the English stronghold of the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, says her generation doesn’t relate to the "Maître Chez Nous" ideology of the Jean Lesage era in the early 1960s.

Her statement was met with heckling from the audience.

“My generation does not see this as a big conflict,” she said.

Anglophone animosity passed down over generations

Pepin's sentiment was echoed by audience member and Fringe Festival artistic director Amy Blackmore, who said that most residual animosity felt by anglophones has been passed down by previous generations.

“A lot of us who have grown up here as anglophones, a lot of us have baggage from our parents and our grandparents about language issues,” she said.

“Not bad baggage, but baggage we need to work through.”

But the star of the evening was Lisée, the Parti Québécois’s minister responsible for anglophones.

He spoke many times over the course of the evening, underlining that his party was responsible for much of Quebec’s bilingualism and diversity.

The audience vocally denounced many of his comments.

When Lisée said he wants children to be bilingual, the audience cried out, expressing their doubt.

English schooling for Quebec children has emerged as a subject of contention in the province since the PQ took a strong stance against bridging schools — private institutions that anglophone students can attend before transitioning to English public schools.

Goldwater, who sat next to Lisée, expressed her doubts in him and the PQ a number of times, referring to him as a “used car salesman.”

Lisée also said that over the past six months he’s been in office, he’s heard time and time again that Montreal anglophones want to feel part of Quebec society, and not apart from it.

“One of the main things I hear is that Anglo Quebecers want in. They want in,” he said.

But Goldwater said that if Lisée is attempting to ascertain that the PQ has found a new pragmatism, “You are going to fail so miserably, I feel sad for you.”

The audience listened intently to the topics at hand and participated in the question period, as well as online through a live chat.

Some expressed concern over the accessibility of services like health care, particularly for senior citizens who do not speak French.

One woman suggested that French courses should be made available to seniors at no cost.

"In Quebec, we call it franglaise, because they speak English and French at the same time,” said an audience member before the panel started.

“Marois, Lévesque, all of them also spoke English when they spoke French. So it's kind of a mélange language. And it's beautiful."

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