English Language Rights = Mass Immigration
For almost 20 years, the Montreal Lawyer Brent Tyler has been on a judicial crusade to invalidate Quebec’s famous linguistic laws. After losing in the Supreme Court, Tyler decided last year to pursue his fight at the United Nations in order to abolish the laws protecting French in the province of Quebec. The pretext for this decade long battle is a dozen tickets received by a few Montreal businesses between 1998 and 2000 for not giving priority to French in their lettering. The ticket itself amounts to $500, but for Tyler, it is matter of principle: Quebec has no right to protect its language and must officially endorse bilingualism or simply drop unilingualism as an official policy and be open to other languages.
Tyler may be unknown outside Quebec, but in the Belle Province he is recognized as one of the leaders of the angryphones, that is the English speaking activists who wish to break down French hegemony and impose multiculturalism in Quebec. After leading the English lobby Alliance Quebec and being involved in different legal struggles against the majority rule, he has been focusing on the famous Law 101, a linguistic law cited in many countries as an example of a proactive policy designed to protect the language.
Like that of the other angryphones, Tyler’s fight is misguided. Being in the strange situation of being a minority in Quebec, but a majority in Canada, the Anglophones who support Tyler and read the alarmist Montreal Gazette have adopted minority politics. In order to defend their “linguistic rights”, they have vowed to break the French Quebecers’ cultural hegemony. And to do so they have been supporting mass immigration, multiculturalism, the abandonment of linguistic laws and so on. The objective of this is partly to find allies in the other minorities, be they religious minorities like the Jews and Moslems or ethnic minorities who have their own demands in various fields. One could also add that they embrace multiculturalism as an identitarian posture, a sign of defiance against French Quebec. Multiculturalism has long been the official policy of Ottawa and decried by Quebec. By adopting the cult of diversity, the angryphones are drawing the line between themselves and the rest of the province.
English Language Rights = End of WASP
But are the Anglophones really winning with this strategy? First, despite the various laws to protect French, Anglos living in Quebec have been better treated than French Canadians living outside Quebec. They were never refused services in their language, they have their own schools, their own hospitals, their own subsidized media and have been represented in Parliament by English speaking MPs. Those rights have never been threatened or jeopardized and for decades French Canadians living in the rest of Canada have been asking for one thing: to be treated like the Anglos of Quebec.
It must be said that in several provinces, the French Canadians were denied basic rights like education in their mother tongue, French media and government services in their language, something that the English of Quebec were never denied. Despite being the ruling class of Quebec for almost 200 years, the English community never faced reprisals, and the laws implemented were never aimed at depriving this group of its rights, but rather were for ensuring the survival of French. The laws on education reaffirmed the rights of the English citizens to be taught in their language, but forbade the French to join English schools. Therefore, the Anglos could always choose between French or English schools, but the French population of Quebec has had only one choice: attending French schools. The contrast with the other provinces is striking: in many provinces it was, throughout different periods in history, illegal to attend French or bilingual schools. That partly explains why French Canadians outside Quebec have been anglicized and merged within the English majority and the communities that still exist are in a “survival” mode to use the expression of the author Denise Bombardier.
If there is something that the English community has understood is that politics is demographics. In order to secure their existence and to increase their political weight, the English in Quebec have always supported immigration. After the conquest of 1763 the immigration was composed of British subjects who became the foundation of the English community and after, Loyalists from the United States arrived. In the 19th century, immigration was still from the British Isles, but besides the Scots and Anglos-Saxons, Irish Catholics started pouring in. Despite being Catholics like the French Canadians, the Irish became closer to the WASP community and served as an agent of Anglicization as they started dominating many parishes, later importing their priests, thus forcing the French Canadians to attend English masses.
In the 20th century, immigration opened to Greeks, Italians and Jews and then again, the English, especially from Montreal, welcomed this wave of immigration as most of the newcomers, even though they were not Protestant, assimilated to English rather than French, mostly for reasons of convenience as the language of Shakespeare opens more doors in North America than the language of Molière. These newcomers founded communities of their own, physically separated from the WASP community, but they were able to join in the big Anglo community, enrolling in English schools and demanding English services. The WASPs then merged within a larger “Anglo community” and started defining themselves in linguistic terms rather than on a religious or ethnic basis. In opposition to the French majority, they reduced their identity to the language they spoke, being then able to enlarge their numbers and offer a counterweight to the French Canadians whose numbers were fuelled by a rabbit-like demographics. The WASPs had become Anglos.
With this new identity solely based on language, supporting mass immigration and blindly supporting the Liberal Party – something the Anglo community has done faithfully since the Confederation of 1867 – the English were short sighted.
They did find faithful allies within the newcomers in their struggle against the French hegemony, as the Saint-Leonard riots proved in the 60’s when the Italians violently opposed the linguistic laws in the field of education. The newcomers enrolled in English schools, have staunchly supported the Liberals, have opposed any bid for independence and have lent their voice to the English demands, but they have forced the WASPs to define themselves solely as a community of English speakers.
With the mass immigration launched by the mild Conservative Bryan Mulroney, the WASPs have been losing ground in Quebec and even in the Anglo community itself. French is declining in Montreal. That is a fact that is hard to conceal. If English was historically limited to the West of the Saint-Laurent Boulevard, it has now spread everywhere and it has become a struggle for the French Quebecers to be served in their own language on the island. But demographically, the Anglophones, those whose mother tongue is English, are declining. The WASPs, even more. In fact, the new Anglos are usually what we refer to in Quebec as Allophones; people who are neither French nor English. They speak English as a second language and sometimes their proficiency in that language is below the level of French Canadians who are in the great majority, especially the young, functional bilinguals.
When we look at the figures for the whole Province of Quebec, we see that from 2001 to 2016, people whose mother tongue is French declined by 3.4%. The English lost 0.2%, which is a lesser decrease, but still, they are declining. Unfortunately, official statistics cannot help us understand the decline of the WASP as an ethnic group, because statistics are broken down into “ethnic origin” categories that are so narrow that it is impossible to get a clear picture. In the Census, a WASP could then check “Cornish” as his origin, but he could also check “American” or “Canadian”, categories that could very well include a Black Moslem.
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The fact is that the Great Replacement of the WASP in Montreal is obvious. One needs to go to McGill University or Concordia to realize that these traditionally WASP universities have a drastically different racial student body than 40 or 50 years ago. And if the WASP accepted to define themselves only as English speakers, with no other assumed identity, it is not the case for all the minorities composing the Anglo minority. And these groups often have a different agenda, sometimes conflicting with each other.. We can think of the several conflicts opposing Muslim and Jewish students at Concordia in the last few years.
Real Anglos and Quebecois Must Join Hands Against Globalists
With mass immigration and the decline of the WASP, some in the Anglo community started to realize that opposing Quebec’s independence or even French hegemony in Quebec might not be the wisest path to protect their identity. Amidst the 1995 referendum on separation, it is estimated that 20 000 Anglophones fled to other provinces, scared that their linguistic rights would be trampled or simply because they could not see themselves living in a French country. More recently, in the wake of François Legault’s elections, some angryphones proposed the partition of Montreal from the rest of the province. The metropolis should become independent and secede from the rest of Quebec; a position that is interesting provided the fact that these same people deny Quebec its right to sovereignty.
The angryphones do not represent the whole Anglophone community despite Tyler’s claim. I interviewed Shawn, who is a product of the English school network, and he does not feel represented by the “Anglo community” and considers the CAQ’s proposal to decrease immigration as “a start”. Furthermore, he thinks Quebec needs “a moratorium on immigration”. Demographically speaking, he has noticed, like any honest observer, a “drastic” change within the ethnic composition of the Anglo community, “especially the last five years”. Unlike Tyler and his ilk, Shawn “would feel comfortable living within an autonomous Québec”, but he adds “on condition that it moves away from the Canadian globalist model and instead cultivates Quebec culture and grows it as it did before.” An independent and nationalist Quebec thus represents an alternative to Trudeau’s Canada, “openly hostile to Euro-Canadians”.
Shawn is indeed not the only Anglophone to differ from the path taken by the mainstream Anglo organizations. Madi, a lady representing an older generation of Anglophones, basically says the same thing. Although she does not believe that independence is a “viable solution in 2018”, she considers that Quebec has the right to defend its language. As she puts it, “it is crucial that we defend our culture and language by implementing rules and laws.” For her, newcomers “who arrive here must learn French”, but not any kind of French. Madi is a defender of Quebecois French, “a beautiful French” that is unique to the Belle Province. In her opinion, French and English are not threats to each other as they have coexisted “from the beginning”, but she sees that “other languages are gaining space”. Logically this leads to a reflection on “mass immigration”, which “is a crucial problem in the West” upon which we need to reflect, otherwise “in a few decades we’ll cease to exist”. Burying the hatchet and discussing honestly immigration might then be the wisest thing to do.
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Bob, the youngest interviewee I talked to, is even more straightforward about immigration and its impact and feels “that immigration has had a relatively negative impact on the Anglo community here.” Despite his young age, he has witnessed the drastic changes brought about by immigration: “I feel that the massive amount of immigration we’ve seen in the last ten+ years has helped to ‘dissolve’ many Anglo communities, places like Pointe St. Charles and Verdun used to be split pretty evenly between the French and English communities, and although there may have occasionally been ‘tensions’ (small arguments and playground fights growing up) we all knew each other or at the very least someone else’s parents knew yours. These neighborhoods don’t exist the way they did before, and seem almost a memory. The ethnic composition is completely different and the sense of community is undeniably gone.”
But all that may have a positive impact according to him, as “the bond between Francophone and Anglophone nationalist minded people has grown more amicable in the wake of all of this.” And when it comes to linguistic laws, he agrees with them as he sees “the need to protect the language and culture” and believes it is “important that the Quebecois people have certain measures to protect their language, culture, and historical relevance here.”
This may be the beginning of a certain awakening within the English community. If the Liberal Party and the short-lived Equality Party have had the monopoly of the English vote in the last decades, the CAQ has managed to break it by getting an English MNA in Laval. Christopher Skeete, an allophone who has studied in Montreal’s English schools, was elected for the CAQ and has defended the banning of religious symbols in the English media, explaining that there was no real divide between the English community and the French population. French and English interests are not in opposition. He has also reassured the Anglos: they will not lose their linguistic rights under the CAQ, something that is obvious to everyone, except to the readers of the Montreal Gazette.