Sunday, April 10, 2016

Martin Patriquin's long road to the Senate

Professional liar
Martin Patriquin is Maclean's chief propagandist regarding Quebec and language issues. His job is to distort, misinform and subtly demonize through insinuation. In a recent article, Patriquin looked at a strange phenomenon in which Quebec is supposedly opposing the rights of francophones while purporting to defend them. The title of this article, "Why Quebec is fighting against its rights", suggests that he will provide us with an explanation for this strange behavior but he fails to do so.

The springboard for all this is the recent case which came before the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Yukon Francophone School Board vs the government of the Yukon Territory. The francophone school board argued that it should be the school board and not the government that decides who is eligible for French education in the Yukon territory. Shockingly the Quebec government did not side with the school board. How can this be? How does this make any sense when Quebec claims to be defending the French language?

Patriquin doesn't give us a clear reason. He does give us a few quotes from Quebec government officials but without any context. Along with these quotes, he basically insinuates that Quebec must be afraid that a ruling for the francophones of Yukon could force Quebec to give anglophones in Quebec the same rights that francophones in English Canada enjoy. The government of Quebec is, therefore, hypocritical when it claims to want to protect the French language. Its real goal must simply be the suppression of English for bigoted reasons and nothing else. 

In reality, Quebec's position on these matters isn't difficult to understand at all, and has been consistent for a long time. But to understand this position, you need to understand the larger context which is something that Patriquin will never give you. But I will...

The reason

From the beginning of Confederation, francophones believed that Section 93 of the Constitution Act 1867 included language rights. Anglophones believed otherwise, and in the decades that followed Confederation they enacted a whole series of anti-French laws which usually culminated in the banning of French schools. The federal government and the Supreme Court remained almost completely silent during this time even when the rights explicitly guaranteed in a federal act (The Manitoba Act) were being violated.

It was only when Quebec passed the Charter of the French language, which limited the use of English in Quebec, that the Supreme Court sprang into action in order to cut it into pieces. A few years later, a new constitution was imposed on Quebec which incorporated a charter of rights that contained several new clauses severely limiting Quebec's power over matters of language and culture.

Given this context, it is completely understandable why Quebec would oppose any further federal encroachment over its jurisdiction on language through Supreme Court rulings. However, since there is no constitutional recognition of Quebec's distinct situation within Canada (as the Meech Lake Accord potentially offered), these battles must be played out in the context of federal vs provincial rights, which sometimes puts it in opposition to francophones outside of Quebec. 

But really, the root cause of this problem is that the premise on which Canadian language policy is based is simply false. It assumes that there is some kind of equality between French and English in Canada when there is not. One language is a minority language with all of the challenges that come with this reality, whereas the other is the dominant, majority language in this part of the world. And speakers of this language enjoy all of the benefits of this majority status even when they are a numerical minority, like in Quebec.

Canada's approach to language also completely ignores the important differences between the history of francophones in English Canada and that of anglophones in Quebec. The historical situation of francophones – underprivileged in education and income, suffering rampant language attrition, lacking public institutions which function in their language and thus the means to maintain their culture, etc – is somehow made analogous to the situation of anglophones in Quebec, where none of these historical indices of oppression were present. 

A lying bag of crap

Well, there you are, the explanation for Quebec's position on these matters with the context. It's really not that difficult to understand. I think Patriquin's inability to comprehend it is intentional and that his real purpose is to mislead his readers. To prove this point I'll focus on one example from this article, Patriquin's description of the Beaulac case and Quebec's reaction to it:

"In 1999, the Quebec government again intervened in the case of Jean Beaulac, a convicted murderer from British Columbia who, the Court ultimately decided, deserved to have his trial heard in French in his home province. 
Following the Beaulac decision in 1999, Parti Québécois justice minister Linda Goupil gave a decidedly bizarre press conference in which she said the case would “limit the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the blossoming of their language.” She then quoted Voltaire—“The joy of some creates misfortune for others,” she said—and promptly refused to take any questions in English."

The main problem here is that a transcript of the entire press conference is available online and Patriquin's depiction of it is so clearly fraudulent. Here is some of what justice Minister Linda Goupil said: 

"The Court states that administrative contingencies must not be taken into consideration in respect to that right. The State must take the necessary steps to ensure the existence and maintenance of institutional bilingualism of criminal justice in all of Canada. This means, in practice, that a francophone from British Columbia could demand that in a criminal trial, the Crown prosecutor, the judge and the jury must be able to speak his language, i.e. French. 
I can imagine that the government of British Columbia might question the applicability and practice of this judgment on the administration of justice over there. In Quebec, all anglophones already enjoy, in almost all cases, these privileges. Quebec has been offering this service to its linguistic minority for a long time. 
But the Beaulac ruling does have an effect in Quebec in that it limits the collective capacity of Quebecers to protect the development of their language. In practice, this will mean that any defendant in Quebec may, to the extent that he has a minimal knowledge of the English language, require that his trial be held in English. Consequently, the judge and the prosecution must be able to speak English. 
This is undeniably an extension of the current practice, which is that when the accused is an anglophone, we take steps to ensure that his trial is held in that language. However, this is a situation which is assessed case by case, depending on the real spoken language of the accused. In practice, this means that many trials are held each year in English in Montreal, Gaspésie and Estrie. 
In conclusion, this judgment is reminiscent of the old adage that the happiness of some is the misfortune of others, I am very happy for francophones outside Quebec but in Quebec we did not need the Beaulac ruling to protect our linguistic minority, they already had these rights."

The Deputy Minister for Legal and Legislative Affairs, Louis Borgeat, then added more information about the different laws implicated in this case and how this ruling might affect them. Questions were then taken from journalists including from anglophone journalists John Grant (CTV) and Richard Kalb (CBC). Mr Kalb asked the Minister if she would answer some questions in English. She said that she would rather not, explaining that she was still in the process of perfecting her English. Mr Kalb then said that this would be an opportunity for her to practice. People laughed and the press conference continued. Later on, the Deputy Minister did answer some questions in English.

Basically, it is impossible to read the transcript of that press conference and Patriquin's account of it without coming away with the obvious conclusion that Patriquin is a lying bag of crap. Why is he completely distorting this 17 year old press conference? Well, like all propagandists, he is not interested in informing the public. His goal is to form public opinion in a certain way. This often requires lies and distortions.

Perhaps, in the end, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of other shameless propagandists like André Pratte who was recently rewarded for his years of service with a seat in the Senate.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, and it is great to get the truth behind these false comments. Nicole G.