Toula Drimonis: Sadly, latest anglo scapegoating comes as no surprise

It seems nothing anglicizes Quebec more than ensuring English services to those who already speak … English.

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The latest salvo against Quebec’s English-speaking community comes from the House of Commons this time.

Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu made a big show of revealing an analysis he conducted “exposing” the money Ottawa has earmarked over the years for Quebec’s English minority-language community (actually, it’s public information) and condemning what he called support for the “anglicization of Quebec” and the “decline of French.” Because nothing anglicizes Quebec more than ensuring English services to those who already speak … English.

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Beaulieu complained the feds spent at least $2.1 billion in almost 30 years to support English in Quebec, and is dedicating an additional $820 million over the next five years. This conveniently overlooks that official bilingualism alone costs Canada $2.4 billion per year. And $50 million of that $820 million is for francization programs for English speakers. And that $820 million represents 20 per cent of $4.1 billion to be spent over the next five years — 80 per cent of which will support French.

This false equivalency was immediately decried by the Quebec Community Groups Network, which noted the funds exist to support services for the English community — “not to force francophones to convert to English.”

It should come as no surprise that Beaulieu would want to stoke division. After all, this is the same man who, after winning the Bloc leadership in 2014, thought it acceptable to yell out a slogan popularized by FLQ terrorists. It was enough to push two Bloc members to quit the party, with one calling Beaulieu an anti-anglo “clown.” 

“In this federal system, our own taxes turn against our interests,” lamented Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, piling on. It must have slipped his mind that Quebec’s English-speakers are also Quebecers, with perhaps different interests, and that Quebecers who are not separatists (still the majority of voters, last time I checked) also pay taxes to finance politicians actively working against Canada.

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Beaulieu’s assertion that Ottawa funds legal challenges by groups looking to defend the rights of English speakers is equally hypocritical. The Supreme Court that defends Quebec’s English-speaking minority is the same Supreme Court that hears constitutional challenges by francophone minorities in Canada. The Supreme Court that will hear Bill 96 challenges is the same Supreme Court that ordered Manitoba to give French-speaking parents control over their children’s schools, introduced legislation giving francophones their own school board in Alberta, and concluded language rights were violated in B.C.

In sharp contrast, Quebec has a long history of hurting the francophone cause in the rest of Canada — throwing fellow francophones under the bus when politically expedient with court interventions against francophone-minority rights. Where was the concern for the French language then?

Quebec’s English-speaking minority has a right to funding, mandated by the Official Languages Act, to maintain its own services to its (mostly aging) population. Ensuring that Karen in New Carlisle has access to community services in English or Bob in Montreal West has psychiatric counselling in his mother tongue doesn’t in any way endanger or contribute to the decline of  French. To claim it does is misleading, petty and divisive.

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The political context and demographics of Quebec’s English-speaking community are far different than what existed before the Quiet Revolution. Many grievances and fears are based on a perception of a community that no longer exists. Quebec’s English speakers are twice as likely to be low-income than francophones and face higher unemployment. A 2022 study found higher rates of mental health problems and poverty, plus difficulty accessing support services in English, contradicting popular stereotypes of privilege.

If Beaulieu is genuinely concerned about how Ottawa funding affects the status of French in Quebec, perhaps he should ask why the CAQ government used only a tiny fraction of federal funds in 2021-’22 allocated for the francization of immigrants — instead of vilifying anglophones for receiving services they, too, are entitled to.

Toula Drimonis is a Montreal journalist and the author of We, the Others: Allophones, Immigrants, and Belonging in Canada. She can be reached on X  @toulastake

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