Language Rights in French Canada

By Pierre A. Coulombe | Go to book overview

Preface to the Paperback Edition

Observers of the Québec-Canada relationship know how volatile it has become. Public debate on the political future of Québec has deteriorated steadily over the last two years. The close win of the federalist forces in the October 1995 referendum (barely 50 percent of the Québécois said no to Québec sovereignty) has led political actors to speak increasingly the language of demagoguery, both sides being aware that another referendum will most probably make it or break it. On one side, everything that challenges the benefits of secession is distorted, made to be discordant with the historical inevitability of Québec independence. On the other side, an inability to properly amend the federation is crudely compensated by talk of partition of the Québec territory in the event of secession. Moreover, the June 1997 federal elections have left Parliament more than ever regionally and ideologically fragmented, thus less likely to contribute to the ailing public debate.

An enduring feature of this debate is the belief that the fate of the French language in Canada hinges upon the nature of the Québec-Canada relationship. No doubt that relationship impacts on language policy. Québec secession, to name an obvious situation, would be detrimental to Francophones who live outside Québec, despite the outrageous suggestion made by some sovereigntists that their lot, quite the contrary, would improve. But what I mean--and this is one of the theses of this book--is that the challenges that face those who wish to see the French language flourish in Québec are chiefly ideological, rooted in a particular vision of what liberal societies can and cannot do. On the issue of language problems at least, the Québécois would benefit from turning their attention away from Ottawa and towards liberalism. If the future of language policy does pertain to the nature of the Québec-Canada relationship, it remains to a greater extent contingent upon the ideological foundations of the dominant discourse.

So despite the volatility of the situation (not to mention the imperfections in the text and a change of heart here and there), I have left untouched the original edition.

-vi-

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Language Rights in French Canada
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface to the Paperback Edition vi
  • Preface to the First Edition vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • Part I Community in Liberalism 9
  • Competing Communities 11
  • 2: What's Wrong with Liberal Society? 25
  • 3: Making Sense of Community Rights 41
  • 4: The Language-Identity Link 55
  • Part II French Canadians and Their Rights 73
  • 5: The French-Canadian Identity 75
  • 6: Justifying Strong Language Rights 89
  • 7: Québec and Bill 101 111
  • 8: Citizenship and Modernity 135
  • Conclusion 153
  • Notes 158
  • Bibliography 161
  • Index 177
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