Territorializing language . . . or selling our votes for cheap?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The Quebec Community Groups Network, headquartered in Montreal and self-appointed speaker for Anglophones in Quebec, wants Prime Minister Trudeau to come back to Quebec and explain his refusal to reply in English to an English question put to him in Sherbrooke. This echoes the PM’s refusal to reply in French to a question asked in French, in Peterborough, earlier.
The QCGN claims these are examples of “territorializing language”, which runs counter to Canada’s commitment to bilingualism (a federal-only commitment).
This is an interesting concept. Referring to “French Canada” and “English Canada” implicitly excludes the other official language in each region or territory, argues the QCGN, quoting former Quebec MP Clifford Lincoln. It would be
interesting to hear the PM’s explanation – wouldn’t it have been better and easier to merely reply in the language of the question? That would certainly re-enforce our concept of bilingualism.
This is hardly a problem here in the Pontiac where bilingualism isn’t official, it’s natural. So many people speak both languages, and so many switch back and forth in the same conversation! This drives language purists crazy, but it inspires those committed to bi- or even multi-lingualism. I find it admirable that so many of our neighbours are comfortable in both languages and use both almost
interchangeably (while I embarrass myself trying to do what the QCGN wanted Trudeau to do, respond in the language of the question). Here are our neighbours, many of whom are not university trained, not world travellers, not well read in the news of the world, but who have the skills and mental capacity to carry on simultaneous translation within their own heads! I doff my hat to them . . . while other friends, in Imperatif français, say, fume at such language travesty.
But why would the leader of a bilingual nation not use both tongues, why not switch back and forth, displaying that humanity is capable of mastering two languages, despite what many grads of our English high schools believe?
Or maybe the real question is why would Trudeau speak English in Quebec, at any time?
Apart from showing the flag of bilingualism, what would he gain? Actually the flag of bilingualism in many areas of Quebec (and in parts of Anglo-Canada) is not an asset at all. Speaking English in Quebec is considered by many Quebecois as a Trojan Horse for the forces of Anglicization.
Trudeau gains nothing – because he already has it all. We’ve already signed our souls over to him and his party, in our absurd belief that voting for anyone other than the Liberals is voting for “separation” and the “destruction of Canada”. Yes, many of our compatriots do believe this.
Why should Trudeau even agree to meet the QCGN? What has he
to lose or gain? That Quebec’s Anglos will suddenly switch to another party? We won’t.  Even the NDP’s short-lived “orange wave” was a Francophone phenomena. Anglo voters trudged to the polls and marked their Xs where they’ve always marked them. We Anglos might as well sign off for automatic withdrawal of our votes each election. 
Aren’t we dreamers to expect the Liberals to negotiate with us (Anglos) when we’ve already assured them we’re supporting them to the bitter end? What could they gain? By sticking to French-only here, they will steal a few votes from the Bloc or Conservatives.
We Anglos have made sure that accommodating Anglos yields absolutely no gain. We’ll take our vote elsewhere? There’s a joke! 
If only it wasn’t.