Today is the 30th anniversary of the day when Bill 101, the foundation of Quebec’s language legislations, passed into law. Much has been said and written about the Bill 101 so I’ll spare you another dreary essay. On this anniversary, however it is interesting to observe that most Quebeckers seem to feel that on the whole, the results of Bill 101 have been positive. According to a CROP poll reported by 940 news, “75 per cent of francophones and 57 per cent of non-francophones think the bill has been positive. Six out of 10 Quebeckers would not change the language law.” Hubert Bauch backs this up with an article in Saturday’s Montreal Gazette titled “Bill 101 paved way for peace.”
Generally speaking I feel that way too. At its core, Bill 101 is intended to declare that French is the only official language here, and that everyone has the right to conduct business and be served in French. That’s not unreasonable, given that francophones are, and historically have been, the largest demographic group in Quebec.
On the other hand, I bristle at any law (or set of laws) that segregates people into groups and declares that one group has different rights than others. That aspect of Bill 101 comes through in the education system, in which a family’s right to send their child to school in English depends on a somewhat murky formula based on where the parents went to school and what was their mother tongue.
The unfortunate thing is that when someone like me speaks against one or two aspects of Bill 101, it is often interpreted as a holus-bolus condemnation of the law. This is made worse by the “angryphones” who actually do that – declare the whole thing invalid based on a few sharp edges and a handful of fanatics who over-interpret some aspects of the law.
The best part of this anniversary is that it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite photos from 1990 on the Monday Morning Photo Blog. I took it at the Sir George Etienne Cartier Monument at the foot of Mont-Royal on St. Jean Baptiste Day (June 24) 1990. St. Jean Baptiste day is basically Quebec’s “national holiday.” Click the thumbnail to see the full image.