Language Rights in French Canada

By Pierre A. Coulombe | Go to book overview

Competing Communities

Liberalism is the ideological background against which we can conceive conflicts over language rights in Canada. As we saw, it is an important ingredient to the political culture that has grown out of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Though not always explicitly, those who oppose far-reaching language rights often rely on liberal discourse in making their case, arguing, for example, that such a law is illiberal because it restricts individual rights. It therefore becomes important to understand what liberalism is all about, or at least which of its core values are involved in the language debate. The liberal community in Canada--for liberalism is, after all, the foundation of a community--is challenged by our need for deep attachments that say something about who we are, or who we think we are. It is, in other words, confronted with a competing community whose worth rests on the communal goods it fosters. The hard question, as we shall see in Part II, is whether French Canada can reach a balance amongst the competing values that each community offers to realize. We must first consider what these values are all about.

What does it mean to be liberal? For one thing, liberalism distinguishes itself from other ideologies in the way it separates issues of morality from the organization of political society. Given a plurality of opposing and sometimes incommensurable views of the world, liberals believe that no single philosophy of life should be imposed on citizens by the state or should dominate over the basic institutions of society. In that sense, liberalism is essentially political, not metaphysical, as John Rawls puts it; that is, the liberal conception of justice is independent of controversial philosophical doctrines about human nature. 1 Richard Vernon further suggests that liberalism is not

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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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