Did Quebec Language Laws affect the Dawson Shootings?

According to Jan Wong, a former Montrealer, writing in The Globe and Mail, the Dawson shooter, not being  pure laine, was discriminated against by Quebec’s “infamous language law.”  What a crock.  Whatever tension there has been in the past about laws such as 101 is long dissipated.  In fact, it can be argued that its language laws are one of the reasons Quebec remains in the Canadian federation. We don’t need outside ingnoramuses like Jan Wong writing in Canada’s  self styled national newspaper to be stirring up yet again the lingustic pot in Quebec.

11 Comments »

  1. 1
    Barbara Says:

    I also doubt that language laws have contributed in any great way to the sense of alienation that engendered the Dawson tragedy. I suspect it has more to do with a prevailing sense of nihilism, a casual attitude toward suicide and death, a lack of moral focus in a very mottled ethnic landscape that resembles cloisonne more than a mosaic.
    It is tough being a young man these days. When confronted with what they believe to be “wrong” with society, they often have no way to process this.

  2. 2
    Andrew Says:

    Neil:

    I take issue with your reaction to the recent article by Jan Wong. I would agree that Jan Wong may have gone too far in making a link between the Dawson shootings and the alienation of non-francophones in Quebec. But she did not suggest that the shootings were a revenge on Quebec society, rather an extreme response of the sense of alienation and marginalization that many people feel.

    I would say that in those who harbour some kind of mental illness, this can exhibit itself in extreme behaviour. For the rest of the population who are not disturbed in this way, they have dealt with this problem of marginalization by either becoming frustrated or underemployed within Quebec, or they have left.

    The record shows that at least 400-500,000 people have left Quebec in the past 30 years, which would mean a net loss in population of about one million very talented and educated people (extrapolating birth rates). Most of these people were anglophones and allophones who sought opportunity, or felt marginalized.

    So, with that in mind, I have a number of questions for you.

    Why is it that 70 per cent of current Anglophone and allophone CEGEP and university students say they intend to leave Quebec?

    Why is the current debate over the “nation” of Quebec one that focuses almost exclusively on the Francophone population, when there are close to a million non-francophones living in Quebec?

    Why it is that people who do not have French-Canadian names are more easily employed in Quebec, even if they do speak French quite well (as all of the anglophones interviewed at Dawson did).

    And why is it that Francine Pelletier, a francophone reporter and observer of Quebec society, said that Quebec’s social turmoil may have contributed to the “anomie” that leads to these kinds of events.

    I think a broader debate is needed within Quebec. For years, the exodus of young people has been an issue for anglophone community leaders, and no one in the francophone community cared. Now it is time for that discussion, just as there has been a discussion about the suicide rate among young people.

    Making rash and irresponsible comments (as our MPs, Premier and PM have done) does not serve this debate. And Jan Wong is a born and bred Montrealer with family still prominent in the community, not an outsider.

  3. 3

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your interesting comment:

    1)If 70 per cent of non francophone students are going to leave Quebec, I doubt very much that it has much to do with the language question which allegedly drove out many thousands in the seventies and eighties.
    2)If in fact the current debate about nationhood focusses on the French it is not because they are trying to exclude the English but because some anglophones do not want to be or do not see themselves as part of the Quebec nation.
    3)There is no evidence that I am aware of that bi-lingual anglophones
    find it harder to get jobs in Quebec. I wonder how many Quebec anglophones who mov ed to Toronto found it hard to get jobs in Toronto.
    4)I think you would have to ask Francine Pelletier.

    The fact that Jan Wong was born andbred in Quebec makes here remarks, in my view, all the more deplorable.

  4. 4

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your interesting comment:

    1)If 70 per cent of non francophone students are going to leave Quebec, I doubt very much that it has much to do with the language question which allegedly drove out many thousands in the seventies and eighties.
    2)If in fact the current debate about nationhood focusses on the French it is not because they are trying to exclude the English but because some anglophones do not want to be or do not see themselves as part of the Quebec nation.
    3)There is no evidence that I am aware of that bi-lingual anglophones
    find it harder to get jobs in Quebec. I wonder how many Quebec anglophones who mov ed to Toronto found it hard to get jobs in Toronto.
    4)I think you would have to ask Francine Pelletier.

    The fact that Jan Wong was born andbred in Quebec makes here remarks, in my view, all the more deplorable.

  5. 5

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your interesting comment:

    1)If 70 per cent of non francophone students are going to leave Quebec, I doubt very much that it has much to do with the language question which allegedly drove out many thousands in the seventies and eighties.
    2)If in fact the current debate about nationhood focusses on the French it is not because they are trying to exclude the English but because some anglophones do not want to be or do not see themselves as part of the Quebec nation.
    3)There is no evidence that I am aware of that bi-lingual anglophones
    find it harder to get jobs in Quebec. I wonder how many Quebec anglophones who mov ed to Toronto found it hard to get jobs in Toronto.
    4)I think you would have to ask Francine Pelletier.

    The fact that Jan Wong was born andbred in Quebec makes here remarks, in my view, all the more deplorable.

  6. 6
    Barbara Says:

    If one had a mental problem, I suppose one could cite the challenges of living in a majoritarily francophone province as a cause, or feminism, or 6-month long-winters, or the higher tax rate as an excuse. Language is not part of the causation, it is part of the excuse.
    I am in contact with highly intelligent students in cegep. Nearly all want to remain in Quebec for their university education. Those that do leave miss aspects of Quebecois life dearly. After university, it all depends on where the jobs or opportunities for further study are.
    I attended a workshop on student suicides at the college. Not once was the pressure of language laws given as a reason. It usually has to do with a sense of not having a supportive social network — i.e. being bullied, no girlfriend, no friends at all, a sense that everyone else is out to get them, no encouragement or motivation, a reclusive lifestyle.

    In our hallways we hear all sorts of languages: English, Chinese, French, German, Arabic… We get along pretty well here in Quebec.

  7. 7
    Matthew Cope Says:

    You can’t draw absolutely reliable conclusions about people’s ethnic origins from their names, but I would dearly like to know what ethnic assumptions Jan Wong would reach from the fact that on the day Anastasia De Sousa was killed at Dawson College, the wounded were named Leslie Markofsky, Silvio Comanaci, Meagan Hennegan, Lisa Mezzacappa, Elizabeth Di Staulo, Catalin Ilie, Yves Morin, Hayder Kadhim, Catherine Mandilaras, Jessica Albert and Joel Kornek. And they were rushed to a nominally “English” hospital where they were treated by a dedicated, heroic team that was headed by Tarek Razek and included Anne Thomas, Julie Robidoux, Bruno Bernardin, Leo Boulanger, Kosar Khwaja, David Mulder, Francois De Champlain and Souad Gholum.

  8. 8

    Matthew, this is the most succinct refutation of the Wong position that I have seen. Thanks Neil

  9. 9
    Matthew Cope Says:

    I sent that letter to both The Gazette and The Globe and Mail.

    Neither printed it.

    Thanks for this opportunity.

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  11. 11
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