Thursday, September 24, 2020

French-only laws hurt Canadian life

John LaFleur in his column (“Country should dictate its own language policy,” SN 9/25), cites official bilingualism in Canada as destructive of national unity. French-Canadian nationalism predates official bilingualism, however, and in fact, the effects of “French-only” legislation of nationalist Quebec governments make the best case against similar English-only legislation here.

In Quebec, French is the single official language - which is in violation of the Canadian Constitution. All road signs are in French only - even stop signs, which read “stop” in France, in Quebec read “arret” in French. All store signs must be in French, with English translations permitted only in smaller type. Worst of all, new immigrants from outside Canada must, by law, send their children to French-only schools. There is no evidence that these laws have promoted the use of French. They have promoted emigration of English-speakers from Quebec, reduced investment in the province and discouraged immigration to Quebec by those with skills Quebec’s economy needs.

The customer is always right. If large enough numbers of the population demand service from business as well as government to justify the expense, there is no reason to not give it to them. Even Texas Gov. George W. Bush knows that a governor of a state with large numbers of Hispanics needs to know a smattering of the tongue of a significant minority of his supporters, at least out of courtesy. Regulating or even banning the use of Spanish in business or government by “English-only” laws will not promote English; there are sufficient incentives for people to learn English, as Lafleur noted. All it will do is make Spanish-speakers feel unwelcome in the United States of America.

The GOP did the right thing by dropping its English-only plank. Quebec’s way is not the American way.

Paul Corrigan
economics graduate student


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