A House Divided as Language Laws Surface to Company Names

Language laws have always been a major importance in Quebec. Now things are being taken to a new level as certain American companies established in the province are expected to make changes. Either they will have to make a French variation to their name or be expected to add a slogan.

Now several corporations, including Wal-Mart and Costco, are taking the Quebec Government to court. The hearing is set to take place this Thursday.

It is clearly important to preserve the French language in La Belle Province, being a huge part of our culture. However this is pushing the boundaries, since these are major companies known worldwide for their original brands. A simple name should not be fixated upon. What matters is that advertisements have both English and French translations and public workers can communicate with customers, in preferably both languages.

This argument does bring up another important factor- how divided we really are. All one has to do is look at the election results, since the Parti Québécois Government was split down the middle with almost even results to the Liberals.

Not that the education system helps. People here are lucky to have access to school since most parts of the world make it more difficult due to austerity and privatization. For example, looking at the recent case of a girl in Pakistan who was shot for writing about women’s right to education on her blog- a sign on how it is still seen as a luxury.

The education system here works like a charm for most- yet history courses do prove to be at fault for why Quebec is still as divided as ever. Being a person who had the best of both worlds, while attending elementary school in French, we barely learned anything about the British. In high school I merged over to an Anglophone system, but in Français Langue Maternelle. Our history courses here were like a mockery of the French that included no discussion of Les Patriotes, little background to the reasons behind the October Crisis, and no elaboration on the man hailed as one of our best Premiers- René Lévesque.

However I do remember being shown the horrendous mini-documentary on the language police that included a man roaming through the streets with measuring tape, to ensure the font size on business advertisements were large or small enough. Also, there always seemed to be an ongoing “civil war” against the opposing Francophone high school in the neighborhood. In 2007, a classmate of mine was beaten by several French students and was therefore pitied upon by the media. We had learned later on she used racial slurs toward them for being of Haitian descent. The following days included broken windows during a lockdown, and a so-called “truce” between both parties.

What is clear is that laws will not solve anything- including the Parti Québécois’ attempt to make French-only CEGEPs. Nevertheless many laws formed recently have either been ineffective, or silly, including former Premier Jean Charest’s attempt to regulate protests with Bill-78, that only resulted in unnecessary intimidation.

If anyone sitting in the National Assembly at the moment would seek an actual solution, it is best to do as our parents behave with kids; have all opposing parties gather where each person speaks for a certain amount of time by passing a stick. We’ve been divided for so long, no one remembers why Francophones and Anglophones have been claiming irreconcilable differences these past thirty years, ever since the first referendum. What would we be without our culture? A trip in Montreal alone is a trip around the world. They are like two parents bribing for their child- the child being Quebec- one with candy and the other with envelopes. Opposites are meant for each other, like night and day or peaches and cream.

Romanticism aside, it is time both Francophones and Anglophones learn to look past their differences and to the common issues they deal with, since a house divided can only benefit the few.

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