THE BLOG

Education Can Solve Quebec's Language Debate

10/16/2013 08:32 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Let us assume for a moment that the desire of the PQ for an autonomous nation of Quebec is truly motivated by the fear of losing Quebec culture. If this is the case (and I have my doubts, but we'll allow, momentarily, the assumption) then separatists have proven themselves wholly incapable of governing a province, let alone a country. A party that chooses to resuscitate Quebec values and culture through policing and isolationism must realize that it creates a culture of policing and isolationism.

The PQ should instead focus on using education to preserve its culture and language.

The French language is a large part of our heritage in Quebec. Almost 80 per cent of Quebecers identify themselves as Francophone. Thus, it's a failure of education when someone who was born, raised and educated in Montreal tells you that he moved to Toronto because it's impossible to find a job in Montreal.

The issue should not be that French was required of them but that, over the course of their educational career, they were not properly taught the language and its value -- economic and cultural. The new Ontarians will not phrase it this way, of course. They will not say that they lack the sufficient skills necessary to work in Quebec, but be not mistaken, this is what has happened.

It may seem bizarre to suggest that Quebec has a problem teaching French, but, particularly in Montreal and in the English School Boards, learning French is not given adequate attention, even when it is mandated by law. There is a fundamental flaw in the way French is taught in the English School Boards, one which can only be addressed by abolishing a system where School Boards are segregated by language.

It is similarly a failure of education when a foreign business is put off of Quebec by a bureaucrat who cannot speak English at work. Quebec's two largest trading partners (not including the rest of Canada) are the United States and the United Kingdom. The institutional failure to speak the language of those on whom we rely for almost 80 per cent of our international trade is unconscionable.

Again, the problem here is with the School Boards; this time, the French School Boards. Unfortunately, the French School Boards teach English in much the same way the English School Boards teach French: as any other class subject.

What we end up with is a systematic miseducation; children who study at English schools learn how to speak English well and French poorly, while children who study at French schools learn how to speak French well and English poorly. Instead of creating a population of bilingual citizens we have a population of people who cannot properly converse.

Now, naturally, this is not the case for all people educated in Quebec, but it does occur in a large enough proportion of cases that we would be foolish to ignore it. If we were to merge the English and French School Boards we could ensure that both languages are taught effectively by properly using existing expertise; We would be able to give native French speakers the best English instruction available -- instruction previously available only in the English School Boards, and Anglophone students would be given lessons in French by the best French educators available. In so doing we would preserve the French heritage of Quebec and the English heritage of Canada. We would replace the current antagonism with a culture of bilingualism.

Then, perhaps, we could rob separatists of the crutch of language in their arguments and show their debate for what it truly is: a power grab.

Quebec Values Charter