This past weekend, the Ottawa Citizen reported on a rather bizarre new policy being implemented in Quebec’s largest school board, the Commission scolaire de Montreal, that will inflict what can only be described as one of the biggest censorship efforts in recent Canadian history on its 110,000 students.
Schools within the Commission will be classifying playgrounds, hallways and cafeterias as “French-only zones” for students and teachers, even while on recess. The board’s chairwoman, Diane De Courcy was quick to say that the approach was not as bad as it sounds, saying “There will be no language police… If they were automatically switching to another language [than French], the monitor will gently tap them on the shoulder — not the head — to tell them, ‘Remember, we speak French. It’s good for you.’”
“It’s good for you” sounds oddly maternal, doesn’t it?
The policy, to be implemented next September applies to all students, even the 53% of Commission students who have a mother tongue other than French.
Private schools that want to mandate the speaking of French, English, Polish, or even Vulcan should have every right. That same courtesy should not apply to taxpayer-funded schools, however.
De Courcy can say, as she has, that the school board is not “infringing on children’s freedom,” but that doesn’t make it so. With the exception of sensible profanity policies that schools have, restrictions on language — especially when the all but one language is restricted — are an abridgment to freedom of expression, which is already under attack enough in Canada.
The unwritten rule of Canadian rights and freedoms is that French trumps all. La belle Province has taken an inch and run 10 miles, going further and further to codify the formerly unwritten assumption of Franco-supremacy. The result? Attitudes like the one being expressed by the Montreal school board that remove not only non-French students’ right to speak in their native tongue on recess, but also the right of French students attempting to use recess time to perfect their English, or whatever other language they are trying to attain proficiency in.
Whether this is a bizarre feat of social engineering to instill a loyalty to Quebec from a young age, or merely a misguided attempt for control by a government agency, it’s safe to say, as my friend did, that “This is just a little too Animal Farm-ish, even for Quebec.”