Most Canadians are probably not keeping a close eye on the upcoming mayoral race in Montreal. Indeed, I would imagine that most Canadians pay little close attention to municipal politics outside of their own city, if even that - barring a federal minister telling the city council of Toronto to f#@$ off!
But these are interesting times in Montreal, as the embattled team surrounding current mayor Gérald Tremblay is facing a strong challenge from former Péquiste minister Louise Harel. Why is this of such interest? Because Harel is, for all intents and purposes, a unilingual francophone, and Montreal has almost always had a bilingual mayor to preside over its diverse linguistic population, which includes a very large anglophone cohort.
Many have, and will continue to argue that there is no reason why Montreal, Quebec's largest city, should not be governable by a unilingual francophone. And perhaps, if Harel were to surround herself with solid advisors, this would not pose an insurmountable problem. But that being said, there is an excellent editorial today in La Presse
discussing the schizophrenic relationship that Quebec has with the English language. Editorialist Mario Roy shrewdly points out that although French is a vibrant, dynamic language, with influence that exceeds its political power internationally, it is foolish to refuse to learn English "comme un geste politique noble" (as a noble political gesture), given the widespread cultural, intellectual and political import of the language. It is a defence of the French language as the common political language of the province, but also a recognition that second-language learning, and in this case, to build English-language capacity, is something to be desired to be fully plugged into contemporary global culture.
Whether or not this editorial will resonate far beyond La Presse's
largely federalist readership is an open question. But nonetheless, it remains true for me that this newspaper continues to provide some of the most intelligent columns and editorials in the country. And it's a real shame that far too many English-Canadians are too stubborn to recognize that they would benefit from learning how to read French so that they could appreciate the writings found not only in this paper, but through the publishing houses read by 25% of their country's population!
Labels: bilingualism, French language, La Presse, Louise Harel