By Robert Frank
Mille Îles riding’s MNA rose in the National Assembly May 23 to warn fellow legislators that the Parti québécois efforts to favour the French language could have a paradoxical effect.
Francine Charbonneau reminded the provincial parliamentarians that “English school boards are working hard. Students graduating from English high schools are bilingual—sometimes more bilingual than students from French school boards.”
She noted that Quebec has already added 210 academic staff and $70.7 million to the province’s education budget during the past four years “to improve our youths’ mastery of French.”
“Besides reading better and writing better, we also have the equipment to go with that,”Charbonneau affirmed. “Acquiring Quebec French [language skills] on the job is what the Laval community wants to see happen.”
She underscored the growing importance of English in jobs such as software engineering, where English graduates are gaining an advantage because of their better bilingual skills.
“They have brighter prospects on the job market,” she concluded. “For those reasons, Mr. Speaker, I will rise to vote against Bill 14.”
Charbonneau also emphasized her preference for providing incentives to conduct business in French.
“Promoting the quality of French instruction in primary schools, encouraging the use of French at work, facilitating the francization of immigrants and promoting the quality of French in the digital era,” are the measures that she advocated.
“Coercion simply isn’t the best way to get people to want to learn a language and preserve a culture,” she contended. “Neither is stripping away rights. If you’re English, you have less rights than if you’re French. That’s not a very tolerant set of values,” Charbonneau added.
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