"Ici on gagne à parler français" -- it was a Government of Québec campaign in 2011, to promote the use of French language when doing business. But Madame Pauline Marois has inflamed this campaign in an apparent attempt to kill the English language in Québec.
From trying to wither English classes in Québec schools to forcing mandatory French communication in Québec businesses, the health industry, service industry, and prompting acts like Métro employees putting customers in headlocks because they spoke English -- there are obvious problems. Québec's Bill 101 Article 46, which states that an employer can't require employees to have knowledge of a language other than French, isn't helping. And Bill 14 will make it worse. Our social harmony is being uprooted.
Oui, je me souviens, on parle français. But we speak other things, too. Dogs woof; Immigrants don't get their native languages sucked out of their grey matter after clearing Canadian customs; and sure, there might just be some of Shakespeare's language heard in the QC as well.
I was born, raised and live in Québec -- I always write it with an accent regardless of what language I'm writing in. I also pronounce it as such, and not "cue-beck" or "qua-beck". I am not francophone but learned English and French concurrently. Living in predominantly English-Québec communities, English ended up being my dominant language. English people make light of the fact that I say things like "close the light" rather than "turn off", and French people still confuse me with slang sentences that don't quite translate like "Swing la bacaisse dans le fond de la boîte à bois." Sometimes, I've been told that I have an accent in both languages.
My ancestors were among those who discovered La Nouvelle France; "Drouin" was my paternal grandmother's last name. Since my maternal side is Italian and Anglo-Saxon, however, all my life I've been reminded by Québec pure laines, that I am not Québecois and will never be one of them.
As a child, I remember the very judgmental caterpillar asking Alice in Wonderland who she was, and I feel, at the ripe age of 35, the language gun of Madame Marois, wants me to make an identity decision based on whether I ever want to speak English in the streets of the province of Québec again. There are vigilante groups emerging tapping people on the shoulder as they walk down Rue Saint Catherine in Montréal while having a private conversation in English, being told "ici on parle le français." Waiters and others who work in the service industry are also refusing to serve people with an English tongue.
My head screams all the curse words I know in both languages when I hear things like these. Oui, je parle français -- but if "ici" means everywhere that I go, I am being asked to abandon the Anglo side of my identity. Is Madame Marois going to penalize French Québecois for using English words from time to time as well? Like "tapis welcome"? Couldn't we consider an evolution of language and culture? Even the Vatican has evolved the rules of God, so couldn't Madame Marois do the same with language?
My family, including my three children and their Nova Scotian stepfather -- who is doing his best to absorb and adhere to Québec culture -- speak both languages at our Gatineau home. It is exclusively French everyday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and my four-year-old is akin to the Québec language police, reprimanding anyone for any illegal language activity during that time.
She mixes both languages in each sentence generally speaking anyways, so unless you're bilingual you might have a hard time understanding what she's saying. My older children tolerate being teased at their French school for mixing up a masculine and feminine article now and then. And I bit my cheek rather hard when told by a teacher that my children would never be as good in school as their classmates because they didn't dream in French.
The crux of my argument is this: I put a lot of effort into preserving the French language and culture in my family's life -- because I love my country within my country. But the Anglo-Franco, Canada-Québec schizoid identity is very onerous to own, and I certainly get no credit for it from French supremacist Madame Marois, whose credo seems to be that Anglos should be wiped out of the province and the province should be torn off like a limb from its Canadian body.
A recent Ipsos Reid Poll shows that half of Canadians outside of Québec don't care if Québec separates, so my Canadian compatriots have resentment towards me as a Québecoise as well -- am I overdramatizing when I say that it sometimes feels likes I have no country or countrymen to turn to?
In 2011, I ran in federal politics for the Conservatives in Gatineau, standing proud Tory blue and proud Québecois fleur de lis. Some campaign posters were vandalized with Bloc Québecois logoed tape across my mouth, there were some threats, and someone once spat at me when I approached them with an "Ici pour le Canada" sticker on my coat. I wish the culprits had known what I learned as Director of Communications for a Cabinet Minister -- the constant and determined push that the Harper Government makes to ensure that Québec, the French language, and the French people are always represented, stood up for, and respected in every event, announcement, activity, and so on -- whether a Cabinet Minister likes it or not.
I love Québec and I stand up for it. I wish I could say that my petit nation thought I was the ideal Québecois. But no, I feel like Madame Marois wants to turpentine the Anglo off of me or have the French Québecois alienate and exile me. There are many of us Québecois who are not pure laine, but Québec is the only place that is home to us. If people of all religions, of all races, of both genders can live together in harmony in this province, why can't Anglos and Francos?
I am Québecoise, and je me souviens. I remember and appreciate Québec language, traditions, ancestry...and I remember and appreciate the importance of a responsible provincial government. I've kept my end of the bargain, can the Québec government now please keep theirs?