ELAN is the English Language Arts Network, and most of the time we focus on Arts Network activities. However, for the past few months a good deal of our attention has been devoted to the English Language part of our mandate. The election of a Parti Québécois government, the election night shooting, and proposed revisions to Bill 101 (not to mention OQLF zealots and Pastagate) have thrust the language issue back into the spotlight. The francophone media have never devoted so much time to interviews, panel discussions, and surveys to find out what the Anglo minority is thinking and feeling.
What they are seeing is reassuring. Most English-speaking Quebec are functionally bilingual. The rate of bilingualism for youth is 80%. This is a remarkable change from previous generations and it is particularly true of artists who are willing to use French as the public language in return for recognition of the positive contributions they make to Quebec culture, in whatever language they create their art.
In February, ELAN wrote a brief for the National Assembly committee that will be examining amendments to Bill 101 over the coming months. Quebec is a jurisdiction unlike any other. The dual minority status of the French language within North America and of English within Quebec is complex, and it doubles the opportunities for Quebeckers to feel threatened. There is no prize for the minority that feels the most threatened or aggrieved, but there are many rewards for a society that works through its problems in a mutually respectful manner.
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