James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bert & Ernie: Quebec's Last Hope

I am an advocate of federalism, subsidiarity, and even secession, because central control is the chief destroyer of liberty. However, these principles can not produce liberty; only a culture that prizes liberty will have it, regardless of the political form. Secession is a vain and destructive enterpise if it serves nationalistic, rather than libertarian, ends.

That's why the folks at Le Quebecois Libre desire not an independent Quebec, but freedom for the people of Quebec and everywhere else. The use of government coercion to "protect" the French language in the province has become embedded in the political culture. The latest victims of this social engineering are those children unfortunate to live outside the broadcast areas of Anglo television stations. And Canada's Supreme Court, despite Canada's precious (and useless, counterproductive) "Charter of Rights and Freedoms" upholds this, well, "provincialism" as Harry Valentine writes:

Until instant voice translation programs become widely available in the market, non-English speaking people would need to learn the international language of commerce in order to effectively participate in the global economy. However, children of unilingual Quebec francophone parents who attended French schools are restricted by Bill 101 to only attend French schools. They are prevented by force of law from attending English language schools in Quebec's public school system. Francophone parents initiated a constitutional challenge to Quebec's Bill 101 before Canada's Supreme Court, just to give francophone parents the option of having their children learn English and acquire some hope for their future. But the Supreme Court ruled to uphold Bill 101.

While Bill 101 may originally have been intended to preserve the French language and French culture in Quebec, it may result in children of unilingual Quebec francophones being denied future economic opportunities due to their limited ability to communicate in English, the predominant language in the global economy. During an earlier period in Quebec history, unilingual francophone workers were usually denied opportunities for advancement in English-owned industries and factories in Quebec, just because they were unilingual francophones. Quebec sovereignists may never have dreamed that their actions could someday deny a new generation of Quebec children opportunity for their economic future, just because they were born to unilingual francophone Quebec families. Except this is what they may ultimately achieve with Bill 101.

By ruling to uphold Quebec's Bill 101, Canada's Supreme Court has indirectly appointed Bert and Ernie to teach English to Quebec's unilingual francophone pre-schoolers. An earlier generation of children from unilingual francophone families reported that they had their first exposure to the English language courtesy of Bert and Ernie on the Sesame Street TV show. They lived in areas where Sesame Street or similar television programs were broadcast. Several of that generation are now adults who have openly admitted that without Bert and Ernie, they may never have learned to speak in English. As adults who function in the business world, they admit to regularly speaking English to customers and suppliers outside Quebec, while French prevails in their home lives and within significant family relationships.

So, let's hope English television stations reach most Francophone children, for the sake of their futures. But television is, of course, a poor substitute for real education.

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