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The languagesituation in Quebec is unique in North America, and is the product of its specific sociological, historical and geopolitical context. Although Francophones constitute the majority of the province's population, they are a minority group wit...

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Introduction

The language situation in Quebec is unique in North America, and is the product of its specific sociological, historical and geopolitical context. Although Francophones constitute the majority of the province's population, they are a minority group within Canada and North America, representing a mere 2% of the population. On the other hand, Anglophones constitute 10.8% of Quebec's population, but are the vast majority elsewhere in Canada and throughout North America. These demographics have always given Quebec's language debate an especially sharp edge. In order to truly understand the measures and objectives of Quebec's language policy, it's important to recall the context in which they were adopted and how they originated, as well as to situate the policy within a historical and sociological context. A Few Historical Milestones Although not entirely unique, Quebec's geopolitical situation makes it an original microcosm in which issues linked to the preservation of a particular linguistic and cultural heritage can be studied as they unfold. Quebec's history has indeed been punctuated by the language issue. The debate has varied in intensity depending on the period, but has never completely disappeared. The language question has remained a subject of constant concern in Quebec for various reasons (Gosselin, 1999; Chevrier, 1997)1: * The special situation of Francophones within the Canadian and North American context, where the English language is in a dominant position and exercises a powerful degree of attraction * The history of Francophones in North America, marked by the British conquest, as well as by various attempts at assimilation * Quebec's decreasing demographic numbers within Canada * The massive adoption of English by immigrants, even those coming to Quebec (most notably in the Montreal area), as well as the various ensuing language crises that have rocked Quebec's school system * The declining birth rate in Quebec and the ongoing influx of non-Francophone immigrants In addition to these historical elements, more recent events also deserve mention, namely those that have had a determining influence upon Quebec's linguistic history. ...read more.

Middle

This is by no means the only progressive plank in Quebec's education policy. Of special note is the mother tongue instruction program in public and community schools, which enables some 20,000 students from 20 language communities to receive instruction in their mother tongue each year. Language of Instruction in Primary and Secondary Schools: In 1976-77, one year before the Charter came into force, there were 1,186,102 students in French schools (83.4% of Quebec's entire student population), whereas 236,588 (16.6%) were attending English institutions. In 1999-2000, there were 1,007,586 students in the French system (89.7%), while 115,783 students were enrolled in English schools (10.3%). Thus, there has been a notable decline in the number of students in both systems. Among those studying in English, the drop was particularly significant between 1976 and 1987. Their numbers have remained relatively stable since then, actually on the upswing since 1992. It should be noted that the percentage of students in the Anglophone system (10.3%) roughly corresponds to their demographic numbers within the Quebec population. The decline in the number of students in the English system during the 1980s can largely be explained by the more stringent eligibility criteria for access to English instruction as defined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which stipulates that Allophones and Francophones must attend French schools. It should be emphasized that if one looks only at statistics for Allophone students (the majority of whom are immigrants or come from immigrant families), 80% were attending English schools in 1976-77. Today, the opposite is the case, with 80% of all Allophone students being educated in French.8 Language of Instruction at the College Level: The Quebec college network currently includes some 125 institutions, distributed as follows: 40 public CEGEPS (colleges providing general and vocational education) and 46 private colleges in the French system; 7 public CEGEPS and 4 private colleges in the English system; and 3 public and 25 private bilingual colleges. ...read more.

Conclusion

In fact, important amendments have been made to the Charter of the French Language over the years in order to bring some of its clauses in line with decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada concerning the language of instruction and trade and commerce. In other words, the Charter of the French Language has, up until now, met the requirements of the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Conclusion Since its adoption, the Charter of the French Language has enabled the French language to recover a certain degree of status in Quebec and has provided Francophone Quebeckers with a measure of cultural security. It has restored Quebec's French character with respect to public billboards and commercial advertising, most notably in Montreal. It has enabled Francophone consumers to obtain services in their own language. It has contributed to an increased use of French among workers and in everyday business life. It has led immigrant children to attend French schools and has facilitated their integration into the Francophone community. However, there is still a great deal of progress to be made in all sectors of activity, and the balance that has been reached remains delicate and precarious. The forces dominating the linguistic market in Canada and North America, in conjunction with a globalized economy and the massive introduction of information and communications technologies, all contribute to the widespread use of English.12 Furthermore, the opening of markets and the globalization of economic activity are leading Quebec's businesses and industries to deal regularly with the outside world and, thus, increasing the demand for and use of languages other than French. Lastly, should be taken into account the long-term demolinguistic future of Francophone society (characterized by an aging population with a low birth rate) that depends, to an ever-increasing extent, on immigrants for its survival. Hence, if the Charter of the French Language has made it possible, in part, to contain these forces, it has certainly not made them disappear; the pressures that are being brought to bear on the French language in Quebec remain constant. ...read more.

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