Thank you … and for such a small favor, Monsieur Legault
In a needless statement made last week, Francois Legault hints at a possibility of communication with Quebec citizens only being in French moving forward during the pandemic.
Far are we from the days of the past, when the French speaking and the English speaking members of the community were at war with one another for which language should be the predominant one spoken in the province. Or are we?
In statements made by the Premiere of the province, Anglophones were chagrined to hear that he thought of the communications we received during the early stages of the pandemic were but a mere favor he was giving us, a gift from the current King of la Nouvelle France and we but mere citizens that benefited from his act of kindness.
Many Anglophones in Quebec were up in arms upon hearing his statements and a familiar feeling washed over one and all, dredging up the past in one fell swoop.
As it has stood in recent years—this language war or rather treaty of ours
The French community is a strong one and one that I respect wholeheartedly. They took my father in when he immigrated from Italy in the seventies and they took me in when I took odd jobs to support my writing in the early years, and many are dear, dear friends of mine—people I respect and hold high to this day. Perhaps this is because we are a product of our time. By the time most of my generation became adults, the old wounds administered by either side had been healed and woven over with a new skin and perhaps a new outlook on the whole language problem in this province, and we were led to believe that in fact there was no language problem for a brief and fleeting moment. We were of course reminded at intervals, but predominantly, it wasn’t my generation’s war to fight.
This is also because of time, time healing all wounds many in Montréal still feel after the referendum of the nineties and before, but it’s things like this, that bring it all crashing down around us, pouring salt over those old aforementioned wounds.
The favor of all favors
Apparently, Legault thinks he did a lot more than he was required to do when it came to communicating with the Anglophone community of Quebec during what was the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated: “There are laws and regulations which exist. Given the emergency of the pandemic, the exceptional situation … we chose to go further than what is foreseen in the laws and regulations. Will we do it in a second wave? It depends on the magnitude …. The laws and regulations will be applied. In this case, we chose to send documents (in English); I chose to add a section in English during my press briefings even if it was not required by the laws and regulations.”
Well to that we say, Thank you for small favors, Monsieur Legault! We applaud your ever-loving kindness!
So of course he had to communicate in English as well. Isn’t it a given?
Apparently not. In statements made, he seemed as though he was doling out a favor and not at all an obligation to a portion of the community paying his salary, and a large portion at that. And perhaps that’s the problem with people like him in power. It shows a fine line between racism and patriotism.
This is what the late, great Mordecai Richler warned us about … people like Legault, who are worried about the laws like “La Loi 101,” and even in times of Global Pandemic. Doesn’t he have other things to worry about right now? The state of the economy, the health of his citizens, et cetera?
There’s no other way to speak to a population that only speaks English—especially during a state of pandemic
But we are left to ask: how else would he have communicated to that portion that doesn’t speak French at all? He needed to communicate in English, as the lives, safety and health of many citizens counted on those mailed letters from the government, those sound bites on the news and those messages from him in his many speeches to the community. For him to even consider taking that away is a terrible thing and can only mean that many Anglos would be left in the dark and at such a time when staying “in the know” is such a crucial thing—that shred of safety that the old Anglophone members of the community have left. And for him to say that English is okay only in crisis is worst of all. Many Anglophones took to forums online to speak out on these statements, alleging to a racist side to this government suddenly coming to light. Perhaps many already felt this was so, but now the true colors seem to be showing through the grey.
ENGLISH IS ALWAYS OKAY IN CANADA AND QUEBEC! These were the sentiments by many after hearing the Premiere’s remarks. Of course we must speak French as well—all Anglos need to make this effort, but we also want to receive important documents in English and be able to speak our language when we feel it necessary or comfortable.
Myself, I studied French and am proud to speak it, and I always speak French first when going into businesses and even conducting some interviews, but to be told by the Premiere of the province that this was merely an allowance … a fleeting thing that he deemed okay for a certain time because of a pandemic … it’s all a little too passé if you ask me.
“Le Combat” is essentially finished, but his words left a bad taste in the mouth of collective Anglophones everywhere, and it brought up shades of the not so distant past. But what he said rubbed many Anglos the wrong way … as if he was giving a whole portion of the community permission to be English.
The news we receive during a pandemic like the one we’re living through now is essential, as it can lead to us following the rules that’ll lead to safety and security, or living along that fine line of danger. But, there are many in Park Extension and the rest of the province that don’t yet have a good or fair command of the French and/or English languages, and receiving the proper news and procedures is quite the problem for them. But just like them, the immigrants, there are a massive amount of community members and Quebecers that only speak English, and receiving news and directives only in French could have led to terrible problems for one and all English speaking citizens.
Essential communication during a pandemic between government & its people
The institution that is the French-speaking community is and never has been in any danger of being abolished, and/or taken over by the Anglophone community, yet they show so much fear that they worry about communication during a pandemic? It makes no sense and never has, but especially to be worrying about this now.
How about we put language aside and help one another in this terrible and unfortunate time … Whites, Blacks, English, French and immigrant; one by one doing what matters, unified and trying to stay alive, shooing away this pandemic and all it brought along with it.
“We are different; we always have been and always will be. However, different shouldn't divide us, but unify us because different is an asset.”
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Domenic Marinelli is a freelance writer / journalist and author of multiple books including Generic V, An Open Letter To Arthur Pond and Weathered Tracks. He has written for Park Extension News, The MTL Times, Steel Notes Magazine, Hot Cars, babbletop.com and many other publications.