Citizenship Concepts among Francophone Immigrants in Ontario

By Quell, Carsten | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Citizenship Concepts among Francophone Immigrants in Ontario


Quell, Carsten, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


ABSTRACT/RESUME

The recent influx of French-speaking immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean into Ontario is redefining what it means to be a minority francophone in that province. This process is breaking down the old dichotomy of official language minority communities vs. multicultural groups. By considering the competing discourses of various members of that nouvelle francophonie, this paper discusses, through samples of discourse collected during participant-observation in francophone events, how civil society concepts such as liberal-individualism vs. communitarianism are employed by afro-francophones to carve out a civic position in English-speaking Canada. Building on the concept of deliberative democracy by J. Habermas, it is argued that discourse plays an important role in pluralist democracies, both for the conditions in which public debate is carried out as well as for the way in which communities are constituted. Conceptually, the article brings together empirically oriented sociolinguistics with normatively ori ented political philosophy.

L'arrivee recente en Ontario d'immigrants francophones originaires d'Afrique et des Antilles suppose une rdefinition de ce que ca veut dire [much less than]etre francophone minoritaire[much greater than] dans cette province. Ce processus est en train de remettre en question la distinction etablie entre minorites de langue officielle et groupes multiculturels. En examinant des discours contradictoires produits par des membres de cette nouvelle francophonie, recueillis au moyen de l'observation participante, cet article propose d'analyser comment les afro-francophones s 'appuient sur le liberalisme individuel ou sur le communautarisme, comme concepts de la societe civile, afin de se tailler une place au Canada anglais. En utilisant le concept de democratie deliberative tel que suggere par Habermas, il est propose que le discoursjoue un role important dans les democraties pluralistes: d'un cote, pour la facon dont le debat public est mene et, de l'autre cote, pour la facon dont les communautes se constituent. Au niveau conceptuel, cet article etablit un lien entre une sociolinguistique d'orientation empirique et une philosophie politique d'orientation normative.

Introduction

Minority groups play an important role in Canada. Given the heterogeneous makeup of the country, the Canadian state has been actively engaged in pursuing a politics of pluralism, whether that consists in support for official bilingualism (which includes supporting official language minority groups across the country), in granting various degrees of autonomy to aboriginal groups (most spectacularly reflected in the creation of Nunavut or the signing of the recent Nisga'a Treaty) or in its policy of multiculturalism. Canada has committed itself not only ideologically but also financially to pluralism as public policy (Pal 1993). This article explores one facet within this picture of Canadian pluralism: the ways in which francophone immigrants settling in English Canada develop a notion of identity and belonging within Canadian civil society.

Newcomers from francophone parts of Africa and the Caribbean who arrive in English Canada are typically faced with an uncomfortable discovery: before coming to Canada they believe that Canada is a bilingual and multicultural country throughout, a notion which, according to the accounts of many immigrants, Canada's missions overseas do little to dispel. Upon arriving in a city like Toronto, however, these newcomers discover that, while it is certainly a multicultural place, the usefulness of the French language is quite restricted. Since many speak little or no English, they gravitate towards the few French-speaking institutions in the city, enrolling their children in francophone schools, making use of French health and social services, looking for jobs which require French and possibly furthering their education in French-speaking colleges. …

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