The contradictions inherent in the system:
On Wednesday, Statistics Canada will publish language data showing how many people speak English, how many speak French, and how many speak a myriad of other languages — a consequence of increasingly diverse immigration.
In the last census, in 2006, the number of people who called French their mother tongue was almost — but not quite — on par with the number of people who identify other languages as their first.
If the trend lines continue, as the experts expect they will, they could cross come Wednesday. Measured in terms of percentage of the total population in Canada, French is expected to continue its long, slow decline as a mother tongue and "other" languages will continue their ascent, with the number of allophones — those with a mother tongue other than Canada's two official languages — surpassing their francophone counterparts.
As the article goes on to point out, the category of "other" comprises dozens of different immigrant languages. Most immigrant languages die out after two or three generations, a result of the natural process of assimilation. Francophone, as has been well established, do not assimilate. From this we are suppose to infer that multiculturalism is no threat to bilingualism. Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages (Yes, that is an actual government position), even describes these two great isms of Trudeaupian Canada as "siamese twins." I'm not sure if that last comment is racist, but if it is I'm sure a formal complaint will be made shortly.
Multiculturalism has two meanings. There is the popular understanding of the term as a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society (more pavilions at Folkfest). Then there is the more academic understanding of the term as code for cultural relativism. Whatever meaning you accept, neither is very promising for the future of the French Fact in Canada.
The premise behind bilingualism is not simply that Francophone should be able to access government services in their own language. That would be uncontroversial enough. The policy, however, soon stepped over the line into creating a privileged class of Canadians. The federal government's employment practices routinely discriminate against anglophones, offering preferential treatment for fluently bilingual Canadians, who are overwhelmingly Quebecois. It's affirmative action with a linguistic fig leaf. The French language is then imposed on large swaths of private life from cereal boxes to Montreal office blocks.
The ROC accepted this two-tier notion of Canadian citizenship out of guilt and fear. Guilt about the alleged crimes of the English against the French in Canada. Think of it as the Lord Durham Effect. The smallest slight is interpreted by militant Quebecois nationalists as proof of a dark plot to assimilate their culture into a bland English Canadian whole. The fear came from decades of nationalist blackmail: Give us free stuff or we'll break up the country.
The WASPs who have ruled this country since its inception have gotten tired of this game. The guilt is fading and the threats are empty. To the growing mass of ROCers who are neither English or French the Quebec game of extortion is only so much old history. They don't care anymore, assuming they ever did. When Quebec's share of House of Commons seats drops below about 20%, expect many of these special privileges accorded to the French language to be slowly rolled back.
As the people turn against bilingualism, an artifact of another time, the academics and intellectuals will be showing less love of Quebec and its demands. Back in the 1960s the Quebecois were an excellent victim group for a self-hating Canadian WASP. They were the Other which needed to be apologized and appeased to. Modern Canada has so many Others, so many potential victim groups, that a bunch of highly subsidized white western Europeans just aren't that compelling. If you want to feel guilty about yourself, just take a stroll down Yonge Street. You could spend weeks just apologizing to people who come from countries beginning with the letter "I".
The expansion of our immigration policy outside of its traditional European sources was a gamble. It was hoped that by bringing in cultures who were neither English or French, or Protestant or Catholic, the Two Solitudes could be steadily diluted to create the New Canadian. What that new Canadian was suppose to look like was never clearly defined. The focus was more on breaking up the cultural logjam of the era. A cultural mosaic approach seemed the logical approach. Yet at the same time there was felt a need to appease Quebec nationalism. With that you have one of the central contradictions of Trudeaupian Canada: Claiming to regard all cultures as equal, while giving explicit special privileges to one minority group simply because they showed up first.
The contradictions inherent in the system are leading to its destruction.