I see, in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail, that Konrad Yakabuski says that here, in Canada, “The ideal of a country in which French and English can co-exist on an equal footing without one overpowering the other has never come close to being realized. Francophones employed in the federal public service know all too well that their right to work in French exists more in theory than in practice. The irresistible force of attraction of English has left francophones both within and outside Quebec feeling they are in a survivalist race against the clock … [while] … For proponents of linguistic Darwinism, most of them unilingual anglophones … [and that designation, , includes me, I must admit] … this does not appear to be a problem that needs fixing. They rail relentlessly against Quebec’s treatment of its anglophone minority, sometimes using loaded terms borrowed from apartheid-era South Africa or the Balkans war of the 1990s … [and, yet, he says, and I agree] … no one can honestly argue that English is threatened in Quebec. In the Montreal region, where the vast majority of the province’s anglophones and immigrants live, anyone can live and work almost exclusively in the language of Shakespeare.“
I think that it is an undeniable fact that the French language is in decline, globally, including in France. There is one, and only one, global language: English. And history matters only in understanding how that came to be … the Seven Years War and the battles of Louisburg and the Plains of Abraham and so on had nothing to do with the rise of English and the ongoing decline of French. Four relatively modern Scots, David Hume, Adam Smith, James Watt and James Clerk Maxwell …
… about whom, sadly, I would guess that only a tiny handful of so-called educated Canadians, know even the sketchiest of details, shaped the modern world, the whole world, in English, and gave the world almost all the ideas that really mattered in the 20th century and matter, still, in the 21st, in English. We are an enlightened, capitalist, mechanized and electronic world because of those four.
No one in America, China, Germany, India or France made any comparably important contributions. And yes, I am cognizant of Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson, of Goethe, Schiller, Planck and Marx and of Descartes, Racine, Rousseau and Voltaire, too. While all of them were fiddling around the edges, the four Scots were shaping the modern wold … in English. And that, not anything else, is why English is THE global language and Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi and Spanish are all static or in decline.
All that to say that French is dying. It will an almost imperceptibly slow, even a graceful death, and no one should blame Francophones, anywhere in the world, for wanting to save their language which helps, greatly, to define them.
To try to appease French speaking Canadian voters the Trudeau regime intends to revise the Official Languages Act to further “advance” the use of French in federally regulated workplaces. That will go some way to meeting a long standing demand by the Gouvernement du Québec to help it to further restrict the use of English. It will be another irritant. It will, I suspect, have little measurable effect on Québec’s English speaking population, but it will give the linguistic Darwinists, and especially the new Maverick Party, another “grievance” against Central Canada and the Laurentian Consensus which says that appeasing Québec is essential for national unity. And, the conventional political wisdom, since the 1940s, has been that placating Québec, on issues ranging from conscription to religious discrimination, is what is needed to keep Canada together.
The problem is that a growing number of Western Canadians, a minority, still, to be sure, don’t agree, and Wexit is a very real thing and, I fear, it is gaining ground, and if Justin Trudeau goes farther to appease the Québecois (and Québecoise) then he will add fuel to the Wexit fire.
My, personal sense, is that Québec separatism is a declining issue while Wexit is gaining strength. I blame that almost wholly on Justin Trudeau’s words and deeds, going all the way back to 2010. He is perceived, with some good reason, I believe, as being anti-Western-Canadian and even anti-English-Canadian. He seems to treat Québec as special but everything West of Windsor, ON, as a national afterthought, a mere trifle. But there are more people (11.9 million), almost all English speaking, in the four Western Canadian provinces than in Québec (8.5 million) and, by 2050 it is expected that Western Canada’s population will be nearly double Québec’s and almost equal to Ontario’s.
New Canada, as, almost 20 years ago, the late Michael Bliss termed everything West of the Ottawa River, is growing more and more quickly and it is growing in English. Old Canada, Québec and Atlantic Canada, will stagnate, at best, and begin to decline … and so will the French language in Canada, if there even is a Canada by, say, the turn of the next century. If there isn’t a Canada anymore you can thank Justin Trudeau, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Steven Guilbeault, Mélanie Joly and all the others who, quite understandably, want to preserve the French Fact in Canada but may be doing so by stoking the fires of separatism in the West.